Branding and Networking Lessons From A Very Young CEO, Ben Casnocha

by Monika Jansen on August 24, 2010


Ben Casnocha

Photo Courtesy of Ben Casnocha

The book My Start-Up Life was written 3 years ago by then-19 year old Ben Casnocha.  He started his first company at age 12.  He was nominated for Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” and was chairman of his second company, Comcate, at 16.  He is now a prolific blogger, in-demand speaker, commentator for public radio’s “Marketplace,” and a contributing writer to the American Enterprise Institute, Newsweek, and the U.S. State Department.  Oh yeah, and he also co-runs the Silicon Valley Junto, an intellectual discussion society for business and technology executives.

Feeling like an underachiever yet?  Yeah, me too. 

 Obviously, a lot of the book, which is very easy to read, focuses on actually starting a business.  Because branding yourself is so important, I want to focus on the book’s 12th chapter, A Silicon Valley Life: Building Me, Inc.  Once Ben had a good management team in place at Comcate, he focused more on school, basketball, and networking in Silicon Valley.  He wanted to build his personal brand, and he did it through extensive networking (as well as philanthropy and the media).

But let’s talk about networking a little bit first.  As Ben puts it so succinctly, networking is fun and important.  I totally agree.  Most of the people I meet are very interesting, and Ben finds the same to be true.  You really never know who you are going to meet. 

As Ben recounts in his book, he was sitting in on a pitch by an entrepreneur to a room full of angel investors at the Keiretsu Forum in San Francisco when a friend leaned over and asked for a business card.  Ben’s friend scribbled the name and phone number on the back of Ben’s card and handed it back, whispering, “Call this man.”     

“Who is he?” Ben whispered back.

“He’s a billionaire. You need to know him.  Trust me.”

Networking is also important because, as Ben writes, relationships drive business.  This is certainly true for me.  Due to my network, I am kept very, very busy with a wide variety of marketing, writing, and editing projects.  The people in my network provide introductions to people I should know—no billionaires yet—and I do the same for them.   

Let’s turn to how networking and personal branding go together.  Ben put together a nice list of what your personal brand consists of:

  • Your name
  • Your physical appearance
  • Your work
  • Your affiliations
  • Your network
  • Your online identity (if someone Googles your name, your blog or personal website should pop up first)

To make your brand resonate with the people you meet at networking events, be distinctive, be interesting and interested in what others are saying, be informed and informative, and be articulate.  If there is one thing Ben and I have learned about networking, it’s this: be able to articulate who you are in a crisp, compelling, and memorable way.  As Ben writes,

Spend a small amount of time reflecting on what you stand for, how it’s perceived in the market, and how it should be perceived, and then get out there and deploy it!

In other words, have a good elevator pitch that people will remember. It is critical to your brand and for networking.

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    • http://www.peopleskillsdecoded.com Eduard @ People Skills Decoded

      Influence and motivation are my favorite topic, so I just had to share my thoughts on it :)

      I think that bottom line people feel motivated and want to do certain things if those things subjectively bring value into their lives. And this applies both at the professional and personal level. That is the only real way you can motivate or influence someone.

      Now, the challenge is to understand the specific values of each person and to find a way of motivating her using her values, not yours. This does require good communication, and relationships management skills.



    • http://www.peopleskillsdecoded.com Eduard @ People Skills Decoded

      There is very useful information in this article. Thanks for posting it.

      One essential thing I have noticed teaching networking is that how effective you are at building relationships is not determined by one thing, but by a system of things: your image, what you say, what you listen to, how you invest in a relationship in time.

      For me, good networking, communication and relationship building skills mean finding a way to putting your true self out there packaged in a way which compels people to want to interact with you, to know you and learn what you are about.