May 23, 2007 1:52 PM PDT

Teenager today, tech exec tomorrow

PALO ALTO, Calif.--A handful of enterprising teens have a message for parents and the media: the Net is not all MySpace or Facebook horror stories.

In the crowd here at the "Next Generation Tech: Tech Plugged" conference, some teens are talking up their Web start-ups and technology inventions, a sign that--like the average cell phone user--the profile of a tech entrepreneur is getting younger and younger.

Ben Casnocha, for example, kicked off SD Forum's half-day event at Hewlett-Packard by talking about how he started an e-government software company at age 14. A San Francisco Bay Area resident, he got the idea from a sixth-grade class assignment in which he helped to clean up the dirty seats at the 49ers football stadium. With virtually no way to complain about the condition of the seats, he set out to create a complaint-and-resolution Web site. What ultimately resulted from the project was Comcate, a Web-based software company for public agencies to handle customer service.

Now 19, Casnocha sits on Comcate's board, promotes his advice book, My Start-Up Life, and travels around the country talking to college kids. Casnocha believes technology has created a golden age of entrepreneurship among his generation.

"There are more (of me) than ever before," said Casnocha.

Anshul Samur, a 13-year-old on a follow-up panel of high school students, is a case in point. He is the brainchild behind Elementeo, an interactive trading card game that teaches kids chemistry. He won a $500 award from the California Association of the Gifted for his idea, and has started selling the playing-card deck online.

Daniel Fukuba, a junior at Palo Alto High School who was also on the panel, recently started Composite Labs, which makes and sells robot kits. When he was 15, he thought up a system using RFID chips on pharmaceuticals in a "smart medicine cabinet" that could detect hazardous combinations of chemicals in the average person's bathroom. His idea was patented with money from Cisco, which now holds the intellectual property rights, according to Fakuba.

"My dad does a lot of work in intellectual property and I was doing some research on RFID for him," he said.

Some panelists strayed from the young entrepreneur mold and were more typical teen tech enthusiasts. All of the high-schoolers said they carry a cell phone and iPod at all times, and sometimes for reasons that might worry parents.

"I've used my iPod to store notes for tests. I've also sent text messages for answers to tests," said Ben Einbender, a New Mexico high school senior who apologized to his dad sitting in the audience.

Not skipping a beat, his dad asked back: "Why aren't your grades better?"

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3 comments

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Totally True
Though I live "near" the east coast where tech isn't nearly as cool, its a very similar situation. Even in my suburban school district, many students have very advanced tech skills. Many of us are working on projects to try and avoid getting real jobs :)
Posted by limefan913 (129 comments )
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Not new but still great
Cynical hat on.
The story is saying that at 'Next Generation Tech: Tech Plugged' event in Palo Alto there are teenagers who are high achievers in technology. If they weren't at this event then I would be very surprised as this is the audience that was targeted. Also, go back in time and think of the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Michael Dell, they were doing this type of thing in their teen but with the technology of the time.

It would be interesting to see how many tech savvy teens there are in a normal school, not associated with a high tech community.

Cynical hat off.
I think this is great. Most teens I meet use their computers for gaming, email and surfing. Not adding anything to the future of technology, so it is great to the next generation of leaders are hard at it and enjoying themselves.

Finally, a little rant.
I find it unacceptable that in schools computer classes are all about how to use applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint?). To me these are secretarial classes and not computer classes. The skills gained though essential for the workplace are not technical.
I would love to see proper computer classes in schools.
How to build a PC, install an OS, configure devices, write programs, design websites. Real computer related activities that I believe would give people more of a passion of IT.

Rant over?
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
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I Have an RFID-enabled Idea to Help the Mobility-Impaired
I Have an RFID-enabled Idea to Help the Mobility-Impaired

See more: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.rfidglobal.org/news/2007_8/200708281426268371.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.rfidglobal.org/news/2007_8/200708281426268371.html</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.rfidglobal.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.rfidglobal.org</a>
RFIDGlobal.org is an internationally oriented online platform for RFID companies and end users,
Posted by rfidabc (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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