Small Business

Young Entrepreneur Crashes on AOL's Couch

AOL offices in Palo Alto, Calif.
Getty Images

What lengths will an entrepreneur go to in order to get his start-up off the ground? As anyone who is embarking on a new business venture knows, money is tight, and if someone believes that they have a successful idea, they may resort to extreme measures in order to make that idea work. Eric Simons is an entrepreneur that has shown he is willing to do whatever it takes.

Simons, now 20, had been part of an incubator program that focused on education, called Imagine K12, which took place at AOL’s campus in Palo Alto, Calif. According to CNet, he worked tirelessly on his start up, ClassConnect, which develops tools for teachers to build and discover lesson plans. He was part of an official incubator program for four months, but once that ended, he decided to stay to continue working on the project.

Because AOL never deactivated his security badge, he spent the next two months working 12 to 16 hours a day at the AOL offices, sleeping on couches, and using the gym facilities to workout and shower. Free food from the cafeteria meant he rarely left the building, all the while evading security.

When he was eventually discovered by a security guard, at 6 a.m. one morning, he was kicked out of his temporary digs and stripped of his badge. But, because security knew that he had been part of the Imagine K12 program, he wasn't charged with criminal activity. In fact, he continues to attend meetings for Imagine K12 at the AOL building, and he was able to get $50,000 in seed funding from VC firm, Ulu Ventures for ClassConnect.

The success stories of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs, have inspired a new generation of entrepreneurs looking to score with a winning idea in what could be the next Facebook, Apple , Microsoft , or Google . The result is that more young talent is being drawn to Silicon Valley and away from Wall Street. Companies like Apple and Google look more attractive than Goldman Sachs to a tech savvy generation. Some are even opting out of college to start on their own business ventures which Peter Thiel, a major investor in start-ups in Silicon Valley, supports and promotes.

While most young and aspiring entrepreneurs won’t go to the extremes that Eric Simons did, his antics are analogous to the wave of new start-ups and the individual resolve to get them off the ground.

Failure rates for small businesses are staggering, and with the odds stacked against him, did it make sense for Simons to do something risky like that? ClassConnect has received funding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be successful. However, squatting in the AOL building certainly does prove that there is no stopping some entrepreneurs from trying to create the next big thing.

Email us at and follow us on Twitter.