Sep 282007

Child Prodigies, or Misspent Youths?

Child Prodigies, or Misspent Youths?

I just got an email from a reader of this blog with a subject line of "15 year-old entrepreneur" and a series of engaging questions around starting a business (and actually, quite a good idea for one as well).  It got me thinking about being a kid and being an entrepreneur at the same time.  The author of this email is impressively savvy and focused on the world of business and startups.

Ben Casnocha is another one.  Ben is 19, has already started two companies, and has written and published a book called My Startup Life

When I was 15, I actually did have an inkling that I was going to go into business someday, and probably even that I wanted to start a business someday.  After all, it’s what my dad did, and what both of my grandfathers did.  But the key words in that sentence are INKLING and SOMEDAY.  I’m not sure it would have occurred to me in a million years to actually start a real business.  I suppose I could have figured out how.  But I wasn’t interested in doing it, or I didn’t have a good peer network of business-minded teens, or something.

It’s interesting to think about whether or not I’d be a better entrepreneur or CEO today if I’d started entrepreneurial pursuits at age 15 instead of age ~25.  Certainly, one makes a huge number of mistakes the first time one does anything, so perhaps better to get those out of the way early.  But I have to imagine that there are some things that one learns with age about dealing with other people that can’t be hurried up just because one starts businesses early.

Anyway, my hat is off to guys like Ben and the even younger guy who wrote into me…I just hope they’re making enough time for more standard teenage fun with their friends as well!

Filed under: Entrepreneurship

  • Ben Casnocha

    It’s much easier to start a business when you’re young today than even 10 years ago. There are blogs. There are books. There’s a community around supporting youth entrepreneurship. And of course, it’s cheaper to start internet companies at any age now, so lack of capital isn’t the impediment it once was.

    On the question of whether you’d be a better entrepreneur now if you had early experiences, who knows. I do think what matters are the *experiences*. If they are serious and meaningful, and you’re processing them in a mature way, then I think they can certainly be helpful later on. If they’re not particularly serious or you aren’t making sense of them in a mature way, then they won’t be helpful.

    The question of “misspent youths” is always raised when this topic comes up. My opinion is that there is no one right path, nor one right way to “be a teen” and “hang out with friends”. With any activity — playing sports, starting a company, whatever — there will be tradeoffs in the sense that you won’t be able to do other things because of it. It’s true that there are many young people who trek on their own path and become socially isolated in their peer group because of it. But that’s not the only way to do it. I do think there’s a middle ground.

  • Sudeep Ragunathan

    I’d like to add to what Ben said..

    I think it entirely revolves around your perspective and outlook — 20 years down the line you shouldn’t be regretting what you did. Instead you’d rather be looking in a mirror and saying to yourself “I did it”.

    And moreover, it’s a major misconception that you cannot mix work and play. You can always find ways to balance those – “live like a teenager” etc.

    But there’s no way you can balance the feeling of regret or for that matter not being opportune. These things have no age bar really. It’s all up to the individual; and many a time, it may mean doing the exact opposite of what the “herd” does.

    Again, that does not stop you from playing hard at the same time.

  • Cory Levy

    As the 15 year old entrepreneur, it is a challenge to manage my time. Entrepreneurship isn’t the only thing I love to do. I am a highly competitive tennis player, I work hard to maintain an A average in a competitive college prep school, at least once a week I try my best to give back to the Jewish community, and I love hanging out with my friends.

    I do not hate having all of this under my belt, I love it! That’s why I do it! If I am bored one Saturday afternoon, I have tons of options to choose from to keep me active.

    Although, I think that I still need to improve in regards to balancing my time. I need to find a way to where when I am studying that I am focused on studying, not my friends, tennis, or business. And when I am with my friends, I should have a good time and not think about tennis, school, or business (I put business and charity in the same category). etc.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to speak about my latest venture!

    cordor12 AT yahoo DOT com