Camping out at AOL: Teen entrepreneur lives on AOL's couch for two months

Free food, good showers and comfy couches can be just as attractive to strangers as empoloyees

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Appallingly young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs always have to go that one big step further than all the other overachievers out there.

Nationwide, 29 percent of young adults (ages 25 to 34) have come home to live with their parents for at least a short time to take advantage of cheap rent and friendly accommodations during a wickedly tight economy, according to a survey published in March by the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Nineteen-year-old Eric Simons did nothing so pedestrian.

Just two years after graduating from high school in Chicago, the teenage entrepreneur was in Palo Alto Calif. Trying to make his first billion with a startup called ClassConnect, a social networking site designed to let teachers crib from each other's lesson plans the most effective ways to keep adolescents engaged.

Simons claims on his About page that he was inspired by his own boredom, lack of interest in school and the challenge from a teacher that he come up with techniques teachers could use that would keep him engaged.

"Let's get everyone working together on computers!" according to the version of the story he tells online. "I'll even build the software for us to use."

Fast-forward a few months and Simons was in Palo Alto, working full time on ClassConnect at a startup incubator called Imagine K12 and burning through his startup money even sleeping on friends' couches, working 12-16 hours per day and living on Ramen noodles.

By the time the four-month startup program ended, the $20,000 K12 gave ClassConnect had ran out, leaving Simons with nowhere to work and nowhere to sleep.

Rather than go back to college or to his parents' house, Simons moved in with AOL, which sponsors the K12 incubator and gives it office space in AOL's Palo Alto campus.

After the K12 program ran out, Simons found, his key card still worked, there was plenty of unoccupied space he could work in, a gym, shows, free food in the cafeteria and an army of not-quite-colleagues who keep such weird hours themselves no one noticed the now-20-year-old was living in the building, not just working there.

"They'd say, 'Oh, he just works, here, he's working late every night. Wow, what a hard worker,'" Simons told CNET.

He slept on one of three couches that seemed not to be on the patrol routes of night security guards, went to bed late and woke up early so no one caught him napping, showered in the gym, snacked on cereal and Coke in the cafeteria and got back to work.

Photo Credit: 

ClassConnect

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