When a young entrepreneur was invited by software giant AOL to take part in a summer program to support young talent, its management team would not have anticipated that months later, the 20-year old would be squatting on-site.
Eric Simmons managed to stay undetected at AOL after he enrolled in a four-month start-up incubator program, based at its headquarters. The program awarded him $US20,000 to work on his start-up and he was issued with a building badge to come and go. The only problem was, he didn’t go. After the program ended and he was left without an income, Simons found his building badge still worked and decided to start living at AOL to continue work on his start-up business.
Eating the company’s free food and enjoying staff gym and shower access, Simmons was able to sleep on couches outside security patrol areas, use the on-site laundry and store his belongings in a locker. Simmons revealed to CNET that in order to remain undetected he devised a plan which involved waking up at a certain hour each morning, so staff did not catch on to the fact he was not an employee. “There were so many people going in and out each day,” Simons said. “They’d think, ‘Oh, he just works here; he's working late every night. Wow, what a hard worker,” he said.
Yet the brilliant plan became unstuck when the young man caught the suspicions of a savvy security guard who came in early one morning to catch him. “One of the guys who manages the building came in at like 5 or 6 in the morning and he scoured the entire place to find me, and he ripped me a new one. He was pi*sed that I was treating it like a dorm. Which was reasonable,” Simmons said.
Luckily for the lad, the guard knew he had previously been a member of the incubator program and did not call police. However he was stripped of his building pass.
Don’t worry though; Simmons is far from out on the street since being booted from AOL. Based on what he created whilst squatting, the young entrepreneur managed to secure a $US50,000 grant from a Silicon Valley venture capitalist to continue building his start-up.
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