The Young and the Wealthy

Every city has its posh pockets of privilege, where those who've won the race for wealth reap its rewards.

And every city has its legendary titans. On San Francisco's Nob Hill, for example, there's a restaurant that pays homage to the city's railroad barons -- older looking gentlemen of the sort we used to call tycoons.

But now, winners at the wealth game come in a younger model. Ben Casnocha wasn't old enough to vote when he founded a million-dollar Bay Area business.

Casnocha's winning business idea began when he and some young teenage friends went to the old Candlestick Park.

"The seats were incredibly dirty and the whole atmosphere of the stadium was pretty depressing," Casnocha told "20/20" co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas. "And we wanted to complain to the city of San Francisco … and I couldn't find anyone who was responsible for dealing with citizen complaints."


Casnocha thought that if San Francisco's City Hall was ill-equipped to handle its citizens' concerns, maybe other city governments were as well.

"For me it was the stadium, for someone else it might be a pothole or a tree limb that's down or a stop light that's out," Casnocha said. "And I started thinking, maybe there's a new opportunity, a new business I could create that would try to help these local governments do a better job at managing these citizen complaints."

'You're Supposed to Fail'

Casnocha did just that, starting a business called Comcate that designs software to solve the problem and sells it to local governments.

"We work with 75 local governments, we have about 3,000 employees who log into our applications every day and we have seven people full-time in San Francisco," said Casnocha, who is now 19.

Identifying and answering a specific need is a classic starting point for a growing number of young entrepreneurs, whose age, they say, gives them an advantage. Casnocha said that when you're young, the cost of failure is much lower.

"I mean, if you fail no one cares," he said. "You're supposed to fail. So there was really nothing to lose at the time."

"Ben exemplifies the teen entrepreneur," said financial reporter Jon Swartz, the author of a book about youthful business innovators called "Young Wealth." "He is well adjusted, he is smart, he is savvy … he had this exuberance, this optimism, just this 'can do' attitude that permeates throughout not only him but a lot of his peers."

Swartz calls this group "Generation Google" and says that they are winners "despite hardships, obstacles, naysayers."

"With the Internet, in a sense it has leveled the playing ground, so anybody with a good idea [who] is willing to work hard can start a company from scratch over the Web, and that is what Ben did. And that is what these other kids are doing," Swartz said.

Not Just Fun and Games

Ephren Taylor, a 25-year-old, Missouri-raised CEO, is another case in point. If the first thing you need for young success is a good idea, the second is the drive and devotion to see it through. Taylor's first business venture was making and selling video games, which he started at the ripe old age of 12.

"We'd bug our parents for a $50 game off the shelf, and the answer would always be a resounding 'No,'" he said. "And then one day … I came across this book, you know, 'How to Make A Video Game in 21 Days.'"

"We didn't have a computer at the house, so I had to stay after school, in middle school, every day after basketball practice to use the school's computers, and I had to teach myself the math and the logic that kind of went behind it," he said.

The 12-year-old kid who couldn't afford a $50 video game now said he's worth "maybe $20 million on a bad day," although he isn't sure of the exact figure.

Taylor went from selling $10 video games to designing a Web site that matched teenage job seekers with employers. He'd made $1 million before graduating from high school.

Then, Taylor said, he "decided to retire at 19 and got married, and my wife said I should do something a little bit more productive with my life."

Taylor is now a husband and a father, and also CEO of City Capital, a corporation that buys and remodels run-down urban properties, "fixing them up and then helping families get affordable housing."

"I'm leaning so much now towards corporate social responsibility," he said. "You know, dollars is one thing, but if you can impact the community, change it for the better -- that is worth so much more than a check."

'Refuse to Lose'

What does Taylor think made him a winner?

He attributes a large part of his success to "ambition, home upbringing, community support, some very good mentors," but added, "I think the thing that makes Ephren Taylor a winner is that I just refuse to lose."

He said if "you're gonna do it, you might as well do it big."

"This idea of going out and doing stuff, of actually acting upon ideas, experimenting, tinkering, throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks, that is the difference between people who talk about stuff and the people who go out and do stuff," said Casnocha.

What Casnocha and Taylor are doing goes beyond making money. They say the real win in life is being able to pursue their dreams.

"I'm studying the most esoteric things on Earth -- philosophy, Renaissance art," said Casnocha, now a student at a small liberal arts college. "I also want to practice my hand at literary nonfiction. I love to write … thinking and writing are essentially what I love doing."

"In the case of Ben and Ephren … these kids were not only interested in being successful as business people, they were interested in being successful as people," said Swartz.

Where does Taylor see himself in 10 years?

"Ten years from now -- probably a minister in somebody's congregation," he said. "You can always make more money. Money can come and go. But changing someone's life, that's priceless."