Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Meet the tireless entrepreneur who squatted at AOL (cnet.com)
435 points by streeter on May 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments

...given just $20,000 by the incubator, and after the four-month program ended, the money was gone...

...after pivoting and focusing solely on letting teachers share lesson plans, Simons said he was able to score $50,000 in seed funding from Ulu Ventures and Silicon Valley VC Paul Sherer.

Now, Simons said, he's looking to raise an additional $500,000.

So is Simons just a kid with a particularly honed entrepreneurial spirit?

Exactly when did the definition of entrepreneur change from "build a sustainable business that provides value to its customers" to "survive long enough for the next round of investment"?

I admire Eric for his tenacity (most others would have quit long ago), but I'd much rather hear about when he actually sells something.

I want to know why we are celebrating blatant unethical behavior as entrepreneurial spirit. Moxie is one thing, this is just dumb and reckless.

Cost to AOL was approximately nothing. AOL will spend more on worker time reading and joking about this article than they did on the cereal and ramen he ate. It's a rounding error.

The benefit to AOL is that they got a ton of good press for supporting young hackers. This is the first I've heard of the Imagine K 12 incubator, and I'm glad somebody's tackling this. AOL was smart to laugh it off in the press; this is the first positive thought I've had about them this decade.

Having been team lead/manager on several helpdesks, I know it costs $1,000-$2,000 per month for space & supplies for one employee (probably more if food is involved). Sure, it's a drop in the bucket for AOL, but just because they're a big company doesn't make trespassing and theft OK.

Office space is a fixed cost. Meaning with or without him, they would've paid that amount in rent. The same is true of the internet he used and the couch he slept on.

The only variable cost is the food he ate which was probably negligible all things considered.

There are lost opportunity costs (of the space), depreciation costs (wear and tear), and bandwidth still costs money. And now, the AOL PR people have to spend time of this.

I'm not saying these are large costs, but the degree of harm isn't an excuse.

If they needed the chair he was in, they would have just said, "Hey, who are you?" Opportunity cost was zero. Wear and tear would be negligible, and there is no way on earth AOL had to renegotiate their office bandwidth contract because one more person was coding there.

I suspect the AOL PR people are throwing a party that somebody managed to use "young" or "entrepreneur" in the same article with the word "AOL".

Also, degree of harm is certainly relevant. E.g. "No harm, no foul."

I'm not saying it was morally flawless, by the way. It was definitely somewhere between scrappy and duplicitous. And it was probably criminal if AOL really cared. I'm just saying that they don't actually care.

As a way to check, note that AOL opened these offices to other startups for free: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_14/b42220432...

None of that is justification for theft.

I agree. It's huge press for them and a pivotal change for their image. Pretty sure you mean this millenium though.

What ethical boundary did he cross?

He broke a rule, probably a few laws, but no person was harmed or in any way negatively affected, it is certainly not 'blatantly unethical'

Reckless maybe, but obviously not dumb, given the outcome.

And perhaps he was just taking tips from RMS, who squatted his MIT office for years after officially quitting to work on GNU.

How does the fact that someone else squatted make it any less unethical?

I'm not sure it was particularly unethical, unless somebody can demonstrate that there was any real harm done to anyone by his actions.

If nothing else he got free food, correct? If each meal cost AOL around $10 then that's $10 * 3 * (2 * 30) = $1,800 worth of damages. This is not including any snacks / soft drinks / free gym / other perks that he might be snatching on top of that. If he caused that much damage by taking and then selling books from a local library we'd be in uproar.

Comparing this to RMS isn't fair either. Everyone knew RMS was staying at the university -- his postal address was literally the desk he worked at.

Just as this guy stole quietly doesn't mean he didn't steal. He has raised $70k in funding and then has gone on to steal at least $2,000 from AOL. This isn't just unethical, it's illegal.

$10/meal for cereal and ramen? That feels like a stretch to me.

Seriously? AOL is a bit better funded then the average library, and he did have those privileges its much more akin to using an expired gym pass.

It's a kooky story nothing else.

Each meal did not cost AOL anywhere near $10. The cost to AOL was marginal because they already had purchased all the food and drinks to cater to everyone else in the building at all times. That gives them good economies of scales. Furthermore, his use of office space, gym equipment and all the other perks and amenities he used also cost AOL marginally. It's a stretch to say he financially impacted AOL in any way (unless you factor how the building's insurers decide to factor his squatting stunt into increased risk and higher insurance rates, but that is also a stretch).

However, I do agree that he saved over $2,000, since he saved the difference between what it would have cost him to purchase his food and perks at market price elsewhere and what they actually cost.

The question of whether something is ethical is very different from the question of whether it causes any harm.

I know quite a few medics. I'm not sure they'd agree.

I think they would. Suppose you extract the transplantable organs of a dead patient without permission, is it ethical? Have you harmed the patient? If the relatives don't find out, are they harmed?

This isn't as cut and dried as you might think. Many countries, such as Spain, have an opt-out rather than an opt-in process for organ donation.

But people have the choice of wether to live in that country or not. And citizens have the means to elect a new government to change that law. Because people that live in Spain know that the default is opt-in (or at least have the opportunity to find out), they have made a choice to either allow, or not allow organ harvesting. So, yes, removing the organs of someone who has not consented is unethical, regardless of the locale.

Spain (and many other countries) decided that they would rather be opt-out, so by default you've consented. This is actually a great example of the power of defaults to affect an outcome. Because of this out-out, the number of donations increases significantly.

I'd be more interested to know what happens to foreigners. I suspect that they aren't treated as consenting, but I don't know.

Then, there is the question if it is ethical to hold on to you organs after your own death.

This goes to the definition of "ethical", and it's distinct from "moral", in the sense that ethics are a codified set of rules or guidelines: one does not judge something as ethical based on the result, but based on its conformity to a set of explicit or implicit expectations of conduct.

Ethics can be personal though, and there are many different forms, many of which explicitly focus on the result, and many which do not. I still think that it is very difficult to separate the concept of ethics from the notion of harm. Even where codified, the concept of avoiding harm, if only to members of your own clade for the more tribal forms, is pretty central to the formulation of pretty much all ethical systems.

Care to elaborate?

"Do no harm."

I figured that was where they were going... but wanted to make sure - the word medic threw me.

"Do no harm" isn't as clear cut as that. You have to do harm all the time as a doctor - the question is what is the lesser harm? Would you rather have a few broken ribs, or a heart that isn't beating. Either way, you're causing harm. Most people would rather you crack a few ribs though.

(BTW, that phrase actually isn't part of the Hippocratic Oath [1][2])

Here's a different example. Is burning a religious text (Bible, Koran, etc...) ethical? What if it is in private? Is anyone harmed? Many people would consider this an unethical act, even if no one was around to see it. And if no one would see it (and thus be offended), where is the harm?

Another example: Imagine Alice is in a wheelchair and is shopping. She accidentally drops her phone on the floor. At that moment, Eve walks by, notices Alice struggling, and yet does nothing. Eve continues walking on her way. Did Eve cause Alice harm? Alice was already in trouble, and Eve didn't do anything help. However, Eve didn't do anything to cause Alice's problems. So you can't really claim that Eve harmed Alice, even though many would question her inaction.

This is just to point out that the concepts of harm and ethics aren't necessarily linked. But that is really moot in this case, because no one can really claim that this kid caused AOL no harm. It may just be really small in monetary terms.

[1] http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/06/harm-part-hippocratic-oa... [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath

BTW, that phrase actually isn't part of the Hippocratic Oath

I know, but it is part of the standard medical code of ethics.

The original Hippocratic oath is a bit crap anyway, as it bans teaching any medical knowledge to ordinary people.

Thank you.

[edit] And apologies for being unnecessarily obtuse earlier, one of the precepts for ethics in medicine is the phrase "First, do no harm", which is what I was obliquely blathering on about. So rather than being very different questions, the concept of harm is firmly tied to many of our concepts of ethical behaviour.

He used AOL infrastructure to build his company, I'm wondering if he disclosed that to investors as he's pretty liable to them otherwise.

It's lesson number #1 (don't use your employer's computer off-hours when working on your own projects) for people that try to build something outside their company's influence.

"He used AOL infrastructure to build his company"

Hard to believe that this isn't also some kind of tort or trespass of which AOL could bring charges against him or stake a claim should he have some future gain from activities done at their expense (as nominal as that is).

I'm surprised they are treating it the way they are other than the obvious negative publicity that would ensue.

I mean if someone stayed for months in a department store overnight I don't think they would laugh it off or it might attract others to do the same.

I'm surprised they are treating it the way they are other than the obvious negative publicity that would ensue.

Negative publicity can be a very strong motivator.

It feels like not a week goes by that 'the internet' learns about some yahoo suing some other guy for shaky reasons, and becoming infamous as a result.

Soon after that the yahoo has to change his name and move to Tijuana.

I had to re-read this comment, because initially I thought you were trying to say that Yahoo! should pack up and move to Mexico after suing Facebook.

But yes, I think you're right. The negative backlash that AOL would get for attacking this kid vastly outweighs any sort of benefit they'd get. Now, this is all about spin and PR.

If someone stayed for months in my department store overnight, I'd let them off with it as long as I got to borrow their tardis at the weekends.

AOL might have a case... don't know, IANAL. Doubtless they could tie him up in court. However, I don't imagine they would try to touch him. The kid has the makings of a modern folk-hero—it could only result in bad PR for AOL if they did go after him.

The response from the AOL spokesperson makes it seem like they are taking the incident in good humour:

"It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn't expect it to work so well."

But he's not an AOL employee and had no contractual obligation to them. He just crashed there, working on his own computer, and eating AOL's food and sleeping on their couches.

I don't think the story says so explicitly, but he was also probably using their network, power, etc. to do his work. I'm guessing they must have a guest wifi network or the like where a non-corporate computer connecting wouldn't raise any flags.

Does the person in the apartment below me own my free software contributions because heat from her apartment warms mine?

No, but if you steal his wifi, he might have a claim because you utilized his infrastructure (without consent) to make it. I'm not a lawyer, but I believe this has at least been raised in some situations where people used either company computers or other equipment to set up a new business.

Why is heat any different? If the temperature was too low, my fingers would have frozen off while typing.

(I think the answer in this case is: I didn't take any action to receive the heat. Now the question is: why can't I legally decrypt satellite TV that's being blasted through my brain 24/7?)

I believe that it has been ruled that technically you can decrypt the satellite TV legally. Provided that you do it 100% independently and do not attempt to sell plans, kits, etc. or otherwise profit from your ability to decrypt the signal.

Purchasing equipment that significantly enhances your ability to decrypt the signal (eg: a pre-programmed or altered smart card) is where you run into issues.

In the US, decrypting satellite TV without authorization is illegal under 47 USC 605(a)(6): "No person not being entitled thereto shall receive or assist in receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and use such communication (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto."

Additionally, unauthorized decryption of a copyrighted program or movie is a violation of the DMCA, 17 USC 1201(a)(1): "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title."

Worst case, he has to reimburse them for the cost imposed, plus some sort of rent, plus some kind of punitive damages. No way does AOL get any sort of ownership out of this, though.

The worst case is that they argue that the company wouldn't exist without his misappropriation of AOLs resources and should be awarded X% of the company as compensation, where X is equal to the percentage of the company that equals the amount of money that he cost AOL in food, supplies, network access, etc... at the time of the misappropriation. They could argue that they were de-facto investors because of the material support they "offered".

Or they could keep him tied up in court trying to argue his way out of it.

The only reason why he is going to make it out of this okay is the bad press that AOL would get for going after him.

Does it really work that way? I thought you could be held liable for damages (including punitive), not hypothetical what-if scenarios. If I steal your laptop and use it to sell an app, then later I'm caught, I'll go to jail for theft, and you'll get your laptop back, but you won't get any ownership of the app I developed.

Probably not, but it would make for quite the legal headache for him. (Not to mention the board meetings)

If you get into a dispute with Time Warner over your cable bill, do they gain legal rights to anything you write at home and publish on the internet?

If he used AOL computers (which it sounds like he didn't) they may or may not have grounds for a case but this is really stretching it.

" Simons said he was able to score $50,000 in seed funding from Ulu Ventures and Silicon Valley VC Paul Sherer. "I was aware" of Simons living at AOL, Clint Korver of Ulu Ventures told CNET. "Tenacity and commitment are key attributes of a great entrepreneur. Eric has these in spades as demonstrated by his willingness to do whatever it takes to get his company off the ground."

Sounds like Sherer is an accessory to trespassing and theft.

Might be wrong, but isn't California law especially lenient about ownership of work produced outside of work hours? (vs. here in NYC, for example)

Especially lenient, but not infinitely lenient.

I don't think that's the issue here. He wasn't an employee. The question would be more, how would CA treat non-company work produced using a work computer.

I think you're absolutely right. I'm sorry to say it, but I also believe that all the comments to the contrary are just people who haven't bothered to learn anything about the subject.

> He used AOL infrastructure to build his company

And when his website opens up it plays "You've Got Mail" which proves it.

This is a red herring. If you use the business facilities in a hotel, then the hotel doesn't own the work that you produce as a result of using their computers, network, etc.

An employment contract usually stipulates that all work done while being paid by the employer is work for hire, unless otherwise stipulated. In this case, no such contract exists. Intellectual property is default owned by the creator unless explicitly transferred otherwise.

There's a claim to be made here on trespassing and possibly illegal use of resources, which can be recovered through small claims. But there's really very little case to be made that the IP created through the trespass and use of resources somehow transfer to AOL simply by reason of their ownership of the infrastructure.

"don't use your employer's computer off-hours when working on your own projects"

California law protects individual side projects extremely well. I am not a lawyer, I could be wrong, but I believe these concerns are absolutely irrelevant in California. Relevant elsewhere, but not here.

    2870.  (a) Any provision in an employment agreement which provides that 
    an employee shall assign, or offer to assign, any of his or her rights
    in an invention to his or her employer shall not apply to an invention 
    that the employee developed entirely on his or her own time without 
    using the employer's equipment, supplies, facilities ...
"without using the employer's equipment, supplies, facilities"

Doesn't count. AOL was not his employer.

It's your employer's computer. Even in California you cannot use your employers resources for side projects and still be protected. They can't make a claim on your free time, but if you use their computer, you open yourself up to claims.

I'm not a lawyer either, but that was always the advice I've been given.

Now this kid was just dumb. By using AOL resources without permission he now has all sorts of potential issues. Probably the only thing that kept him out of jail was the good will of AOL.

Only if you have an employment contract. Simply using someone else's network or power or resources or air conditioning or free beer or shower doesn't grant the owner of that resource any claim to your intellectual property. They can only make a claim for expenses, damages, loss of revenues, etc. that can be directly traced from illicit use of those resources.

even in california, it is highly recommended that one not use work-provided resources for your side projects if you have even the smallest intentions of commercialising them.

No definition of entrepreneur that I've been able to find says that the business needs to be sustainable or provide value to customers. So I would answer that the definition has never changed from A to B, because it's never been A.

The definitions I've looked at do tend to say the entrepreneur takes on financial risk. He may not have done that.

The conditions for building a sustainable business are not always perfect. Most businesses are given up on too quickly. In fact, many successful businesses have or were within hours of running out of cash before they became successful, i.e. Pandora, early Pinterest, RealNetworks. It is only due to the few who have the courage, naivety, and tenacity to pull through that many of these companies still exist.

Didn't we just have a story about a successful lesson plan startup that had a $700k grossing participant? This new competitor seems to be lagging.

Entrepreneurship isn't about having a magical nose for value, and unerringly finding chests of gold at every turn.

Rather, it's about the optimistic spirit, the emotional strength, and ultimately the endurance to keep going even when it's so hard you don't want to get up out of bed.

If you figure this part of entrepreneurship out, as Eric has, you can probably build something amazing.

I think you need to lay off the entrepreneurship porn.

Entrepreneurship is about building a business, and people have demonstrated they can do that even if they're a pessimist, lack emotional strength, or have any kind of endurance.

Judging by the gossip I heard while at AOL, he surely isn't the only person using AOL's offices and food without contributing to AOL, but he's the only one who isn't actually employed by AOL.

While I applaud Eric's inexhaustible dedication to his company and mission, taking advantage of AOL in order to accomplish it is disgustingly unethical. It just makes it harder for other entrepreneurs who share that dedication but have chosen to build their businesses above-board.

I'm glad AOL has a sense of humor about this. But you can be sure that this incident will create additional requirements and restrictions for the [honest] entrepreneurs who still remain in the building.

As the self-appointed permanent apologist for all things AOL, I declare that what Eric did is totally cool. Any work resources he used can be offset by our collective 24-hour work days from 1995-2000 - and we were denied Starbucks, wi-fi and telecommuting on account of they didn't exist yet.

I spent plenty of nights at the terminal and afternoons asleep on those couches; Eric's nighttime efforts will ensure that they wear evenly.

Eric: Welcome!

(AOL 1989-2001)

"Disgustingly unethical" is a little much.

AOL is going to get press out of this that am sure they will find worth the few months of squatting.

Also, entrepreneurs break rules in order to get stuff done. I applaud Eric and look forward to seeing him do well in the future.

> AOL is going to get press out of this that am sure they will find worth the few months of squatting.

That's AOL's decision to make. Not yours, not his.

> Also, entrepreneurs break rules in order to get stuff done.

Unethical people engage in unethical behavior (which is sometimes "breaking rules") in order to get stuff done.

Plenty of entrepreneurs do business honestly, and I'd rather read about them. I don't need a news story to tell me that behaving unethically can provide gains at a cost to others.

If Steve Jobs had followed all the rules (many more unethical then sleeping on AOLs couch) I wouldn't be responding to this on my iPhone.

That's an unsupported assertion.

What unethical behavior are you referring to, and how have you demonstrated that Apple's success not only stemmed from such behavior, but could have only occurred through unethical means?

Steve sold blue boxes with Wozniak that allowed you to make unlimited phone calls. They profited 6k from this and is often told as the story that set the bond and precedent on how the two worked together.

This cost the phone companies and was an illegal item that they sold on the "underground market"

If Steve didn't partner with Wozniak would Apple be around today? Doubt it.

Was this more immoral then sleeping on AOLs couches for a few months after your incubator ended? I would say so.

That neither proves that unethical behavior was required for Apple's success, nor that said bond could only be created through unethical behavior. If you want a recrimination of that behavior, I'd be happy to give it. It was immature and wrong.

That's the most egregious straw man I've seen in a while. Even so, are you saying the ends justify the means?

What, if not the ends, justifies the means? I understand that, from a deontological perspective, you might believe that certain means can never be justified no matter what the ends, but surely squatting in an office building isn't a means so immoral that no end could ever justify it.

Now, you might think that building an education startup is not an end that requires or warrants trespassing, and you're probably right. However, I hope that you would feel differently about trespassing as a means to protect oneself from a dangerous oncoming storm.

I'm not sure if this is what you meant, but too often I hear people argue that if a certain means is immoral in one circumstance then it must be immoral in every circumstance. These people have the notion stuck in their heads that "the ends never justify the means." IMHO this viewpoint is far too reductionist to be universally valid.

Yes. Nothing great was ever done by people who slavishly followed the rules.

1. False. Define "great" and "rules" and I or others will happily provide no shortage of examples.

2. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're a reasonable person, and you were merely exaggerating, but I don't even know what you're trying to say. Are you trying to say that in order to do great things, rules generally have to get broken...and therefore it's ok for entrepreneurs to do unethical things?

3. Consider reducing your consumption of entrepreneurship porn.

1) Meh, that sounds like a lot of work.

2) The world is rendered in shades of grey, and not all ethical issues carry equal weight. Some are worth sweating, some aren't. This one isn't, according to a representative of the victimized party itself.

3) Consider having a beer or two and giving the high horse a good night's sleep.

As I said in the topmost parent thread, "you can be sure that this incident will create additional requirements and restrictions for the [honest] entrepreneurs who still remain in the building."

Many successful entrepreneurs engage in social hacking in some way. What the entrepreneur in this case did was both unethical and illegal.

Just because you have a key to someone's house doesn't mean you get to open their front door and sleep on their couch.

The world is rendered in shades of grey, and not all ethical issues carry equal weight. Some are worth sweating, some aren't. This one isn't, according to a representative of the victimized party itself.

(since you apparently missed it the first time)

The victimized party can choose to spin this any way they want, but it had no bearing on whether it actually did them harm or how they actually feel about it. That's not your decision to make, and 'shades of gray' is a lousy justification for theft of service.

Sigh. I'm sorry, I thought I was on a forum for hackers, not commercial property managers.

I see this fellow as no worse than, say, a telemarketer. In fact, that's probably a good analogy to draw... except that I typically get more annoyed at telemarketers who hijack my time and attention, than AOL management seems to be at the person who overstayed his welcome in their building.

It's possible that I'm only as sympathetic to him as I am because he committed his offense in the course of trying to create something. Telemarketers don't offend me because they're annoying and presumptuous, but because they're lazy and unnecessary. If every telemarketer dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, life would go on for the rest of us. If every kid with a bit of hustle and debatable judgment dropped off the face of the earth, things would go downhill in a hurry.

Being a hacker has nothing to do with poor ethics. In fact, I'd say many of the best hackers I've had the privilege to work with have a strong sense of morals and ethics.

Agreed. Even YC explicitly says they look for the "naughty" factor in entrepreneurs, and this is exactly the type of quality I saw in Eric from reading this article.

"Though the most successful founders are usually good people, they tend to have a piratical gleam in their eye. They're not Goody Two-Shoes type good. Morally, they care about getting the big questions right, but not about observing proprieties. That's why I'd use the word naughty rather than evil. They delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter. This quality may be redundant though; it may be implied by imagination." http://paulgraham.com/founders.html

I'd say trespassing would qualify as one of the rules that matters. Or really, any law. You can't build a company like that.

It's fine to break unwritten rules of decorum, or question conventional wisdom. This is another thing all together.

There's a reason why PG used the word "naughty" and not "criminal." In this case, we're talking about the latter.

I think AOL decided.

It's probably too little. I would imagine this is tortious behavior, but IANAL.

Yeah, I thought AOL folded years ago. Good to see they're still around and that at least one kid is actually being productive there! zing!

Do what you have to do. AOL is no worse for having someone sleeping on their couch.

AOL out the funds they spent on his theft of service and resources, and they're out the time they spent having security figure out why someone was sleeping there. They've been embarrassed in the press, and they're that much less likely to trust people that are part of their entrepreneur programs in the future.

The security staff in question was probably reprimanded for their failure to detect the interloper -- he abused the trust he had gained by previously becoming a "known" face.

You do what you have to do, ethically, to succeed.

"They've been embarrassed in the press"

They've actually been profiled as a reasonable company that invests in the future. How many people reading this article know AOL as "that company that first sent me discs in the mail" and previously thought AOL as a dead company?

AOL gets free, positive press showing that they're not dead, they're investing in the future, and that they're reasonable. The positive spin this article gives them is worth every penny of resources spent.

> They've actually been profiled as a reasonable company that invests in the future.

The best thing they can do at this point is put a positive spin on it, but ...

> The positive spin this article gives them is worth every penny of resources spent.

Not your decision to make for AOL. AOL will spin this, but post-facto justification ("see, it's not that bad -- they made good on my theft!") does not an ethical decision make.

Nowhere do I lay claim to making decisions for AOL. While I doubt they are interested, if AOL wishes to hire me for such purposes, I am available.

I pointed out that it was my opinion that the cost of the resources that Eric used was less than the cost of genuine, positive press.

I also did not declare his actions ethical. I responded to your claim that AOL has been embarrassed.

AOL responded appropriately (not pressing charges, just kindly requiring him to not sleep/live there anymore), and was able to respond to the press inquiry with a lighthearted statement that fits the narrative of the article. The article presents AOL not only as having reasonable management, but also as a place to work with great benefits (food, showers, gym, startup incubators, friendly environment).

AOL is where Yahoo will be in 5 years: they have nowhere to go but up in terms of public reputation and mindshare.

I see AOL as doing their best to avoid a bigger snafu over a smaller, unattractive snafu. Opinions on the value of this PR will vary, but the fact is that there's no substance here.

Somebody abused their fairly standard SV corporate perks, they responded without bringing in the police.

At the end of the day, my subjective impression is that their startup interests brought in an immature, ethically-challenged entrepreneur who is stuck in the money-raising cycle, and accordingly AOL has been dragged into the press because of something stupid he did.

That isn't a particularly positive narrative, but I can see how people that are more comfortable with Eric's failure of ethics can see it as a cool story of "hustling" entrepreneurship.

Yeah, this was the first time I can remember thinking of "AOL" and "cool" in the same sentence. On the whole I think it reflects well on them.

Meh. On AOL's scale, this sounds kind of like somebody noticing that I dropped a nickel and pocketing it instead of chasing after me. I suppose it's kind of unethical — I wouldn't do it, personally — but to put it in the same bucket with what we usually consider breaches of ethics seems incorrect. Even the AOL exec quoted in the article seemed more amused than anything else.

I'm sure the value of the theft is immaterial to AOL. The security breach is more serious, and the bigger issue, to me, is that other startups in the same building that are behaving ethically could suffer because of one person's behavior.

Or not... stop worrying that much until you actually see a consequence.

By the way, all AOL has to do now is to chastise a bit the security people and to make sure the security rounds do cover the whole floor plan. Nothing more, nothing less. I hardly see that as suffering for the other startups in the building.

AOL is a public company that has a responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of its employees and IP. That includes logging in or badging visitors, requiring contracts like NDAs, and requiring background checks. This entrepreneur skirted all those requirements.

So while AOL may not be worse off for having someone sleeping on their couch IN THIS CASE, you can bet that the hammer will come down on the rest of us in the building. From AOL's perspective, it could just as easily have been a homeless person with psychological issues. Honest entrepreneurs will suffer because of this.

Did he? He had a badge, and to get that badge, he likely had an NDA and background checks, if they are actually requirements.

It really couldn't have been a homeless person with psychological issues, he would have been noticed and likely wouldn't have made it into the initial incubator.

Sorta... It's still stealing gym time, electricity, showers, laundry, and work space. The ends don't justify the means.

Though, companies like AOL or Google could totally make this a legit practice by asking for 2% or something of any startup that comes out of it.

I applaud him (a former employee did this at one of the incubators in the valley and I always thought: mad respect), but want to to comment on the "no worse" statement. This is a typical tragedy of the commons mentality:


Sure, if one person does this, AOL is no worse off, but if everyone adopts this attitude, it will have an adverse effect.

This isn't a tragedy of the commons. The food, office space, couches, etc., that the entrepreneur used were not "common" property—they were paid for by directly by AOL.

I'm flabbergasted that you can applaud him for this. It's like a former bank employee stealing money from the vault, because someone forgot to take away his badge.

I'm flabbergasted that you take his offense as if he drowned two babies and an old lady with her cat. It certainly was unethical, but his action was immature, not evil. I really fail to see an intent to cause harm. Now, he shouldn't get a prize out of it either, but that's VC for you.

Maybe you are this upset because you fear it will affect you personally?

Stealing from someone just because they can afford it doesn't make it ethical.

Statements like this fall apart in anything other than a well-behaved society. If you were a serf with a starving family in fuedal Europe, living in crushing poverty under a corrupt king, would you wouldn't steal from him to survive, had the opportunity presented itself?

The first sentence is not an argument nor is it true. The next sentence follows it up with a non sequitur hypothetical.

Let's say his aging mother died and he continued to cash her Social Security checks for a year, to continue to pursue his dream, would you consider it unethical? The federal government certainly has the money, and he is tenaciously pursuing his dream.

Probably want to avoid comparing startups in Silicon Valley will starving serfs in feudal Europe. One is a choice, the other not so much.

I think you're replying to the straw man "Stealing from someone just because they can afford it is always unethical.", which is not what parent said.

I agree with you that there are situations in which it's ethical to steal from someone who can afford it, but what parent said was that the latter condition doesn't guarantee it to be automatically ethical, implying that grandparent's assertion that the theft was ethical because AOL could afford it was fallacious.

On the one hand, the starving serf living in crushing poverty doesn't have much opportunity to get out of serfdom.

On the other hand, an obviously talented young developer who is starving in Silicon Valley may need to take an internship that pays $80K+ per year.

I'm not seeing the parallels.

I am running a fever, so not really in a good state to make my point clearly/effectively, but inevitably we are all in this together, like it or not, and who benefits is largely a matter of what rules we put in place. Poor people are frequently legally disempowered and rich people are frequently the ones engineering the rules in their favor. The assumption that what the king has "belongs" to him rightfully often turns a blind eye to where it really came from.

Anyway, it is more complicated than the arguments I have been witnessing here today and I just regret that I am not in good shape to give adequate voice to the idea that society needs to come up with a more enlightened means to address ..the whole kit and kaboodle.

"AOL is no worse for having someone sleeping on their couch."

The assumption the companies has is that the building is clear each night. Having a person there could be an issue simply if there is a fire or other event and emergency personnel involved. In no way can any responsible company tolerate this type of stowaway.

The assumption the companies has is that the building is clear each night. Having a person there could be an issue simply if there is a fire or other event and emergency personnel involved.

FWIW, from a firefighter's perspective, I can assure you that - in the event of a fire - the fire department does not assume a building is clear just because it's the middle of the night or whatever. There are any number of reasons why people could be inside at 2:00am, 3:00am, etc. Maintenance work being done, facilities people cleaning, cheating executives banging their mistresses on their desk, etc., etc. In the case of a working fire, a primary search is going to be done (conditions permitting) anyway.

In no way can any responsible company tolerate this type of stowaway.

You're probably right, but I don't really think the reasons this is true have much to do with emergency scenarios. If anything, I'd lean more towards "what if the elevator was being repaired late at night, and the stowaway fell into an elevator shaft and plunged to his death?" and any potential liability that might come out of that.

"the fire department does not assume a building is clear just because it's the middle of the night or whatever."

Thank's for pointing that out. In retrospect I can see how assumptions similar to the one that I made can cause plenty of errors in emergency situations.

"a primary search is going to be done (conditions permitting) anyway."

I watched a docudrama on the Reagan assassination attempt last night. One of the mistakes they made I believe was assuming Reagan wasn't hit by a bullet because a) he seemed fine and said he hadn't been hit and b) the secret service said he wasn't hit.

While "a" would seem to be pretty valid info "b" was based on "a". After all you can't really see whether a bullet hits someone generally. So in keeping with your "primary search" with fires, they shouldn't have "assumed" the info they were getting was correct and fully checked him out much earlier. (And in fact I'm sure that is probably they way they would operate in the future learning from that mistake.)

Indeed. Some buildings are used normally at 2am. When we have games night at Google, it's rare that it's over before 2. This is an expected use for the building -- it's considered open 24/7/365.

I imagine there are AOL employees that work late, too, or fall asleep on the company couch.

As someone who worked in the building at a startup a few months ago, the answer is no: most are gone by 5pm, all by 8pm.

Reminds me of the story of Graphing Calculator:


That's awesome, thanks duskwuff.

Just one quote: "I asked my friend Greg Robbins to help me. His contract in another division at Apple had just ended, so he told his manager that he would start reporting to me. She didn't ask who I was and let him keep his office and badge. In turn, I told people that I was reporting to him. Since that left no managers in the loop, we had no meetings and could be extremely productive."

If you have a spare 15 minutes you really should read this.

I hate stories like this. They set unrealistic expectations for managers of developers: "Well, if you won't, we can find someone who would love to do this for free."

Reading this story made me incredibly depressed that I am no longer an engineer :(

(Thanks so much for the link though, it was one of the most inspiring stories I've read this year)

Exactly what I was thinking.

Got to say the response from AOL was pure class. They could have been really annoyed at the kid for sponging off their employee services, but no, 'we just didn't expect it to work so well'. Nicely done from AOL there.

Sure, the kid contravened plenty of rules and laws, but the level of focus to do 18ish hour days and maintain a lifestyle like that to achieve the goals? You don't get that everyday.

And lets be honest, he's not the first guy in the Valley to treat the rules with a loose interpretation.

Its a neat story. When I read the headline I thought it was a Mike Arrington story :-)

We joked at Google that they really did want you to live there but their secops team would not let a non-employee do this.

However for a potential investor this is a great demonstration of how committed someone is to their idea, and their passion. I don't doubt for a moment that Eric will be successful at what ever he sets out to do, you can't buy that kind of focus.

It's also a demonstration of an ethical failure. It was theft.

I could argue it both ways (theft and non-theft) which, for me, puts it into the ethically 'grey' area of interpretation.

I would reason to 'non-theft' based on an argument that AOL gave access to the building (badge) and provides services for people with access to the building, therefore giving access was tacit agreement to the use of the facilities. Other employees no doubt sleep there on occasion and that it also tacitly allowed. Therefore non-theft.

I would reason to the 'theft' conclusion that AOL provides services to incubators and to employees but does not explicitly extend employee benefits to incubator attendees. Using services and consumables that are provided to AOL employees is outside the scope of services offered to incubator participants. Therefore Theft.

Eric was aware of this grey area, clearly trying to stay outside the regular patrol of security, and thus actively trying to not force a resolution on the question of allowed or not allowed. His response when the resolution occurred appears to be 100% compliance.

If I were considering investing in Eric's activities I would consider both parts of that story, the first where he exploits a grey area and the second how he responds to being discovered.

In my experience it is people who take Eric's approach of interpreting grey areas in the most optimistic way until shown otherwise, and being 100% rule following on explicit rulings, are successful. There are thresholds of course, if there were signs that said "No one is allowed to sleep in this facility" or "At no time will anyone spend more than 12 out of 24 hrs in a day in this facility" or even more general guidelines that define a standard for defining 'living on site' and a express a prohibition against it. Something which might say "You would be considered to be living here if you spend more than 100 hrs a week or do more than 3 loads of laundry or sleep more than 12 hrs a week or eat more than 12 nominal meals at the facility" etc. AOL could call it out, but they haven't. And that leaves it open to interpretation.

In the business world that is sometimes called 'moxie' or 'stones' or any number of euphemisms and its generally respected.

What is not respected is explicit exploitation. So for example when I worked at Google the mini-kitchens all had refrigerators that were full of beverages. A small number of employees were found to be exploiting this 'perk'. An example of that which was given was an employee that prior to the weekend, would take an empty back pack and fill it with anywhere from 20 to 50 beverages to take home. That was 'theft' in the sense that the intention was for the beverages to be enjoyed at work not at home, even if you were working from home. But it was theft because of the quantity not because of the taking. Taking one beverage to drink while riding the shuttle home? Not a problem although you were not 'technically' at work any more.

I think Eric intentionally interpreted the situation in a way that would support his actions, and recognized that those actions might not be completely inline with the intent, and waited for AOL to express its intent. I don't think he ever believed AOL would 'endorse' his living on campus while he worked on his startup (incubator participation not withstanding) but I could see a case for it being an open question if not explicitly disallowed.

>I could argue it both ways (theft and non-theft)

If the district attorney's office in Santa Clara County wanted to, it is more likely than not that they could get a conviction for illegal lodging (misdemeanor).

If I were the district attorney, I'd tend to let something like this slide when the doer is as young as this guy is. It bothers me a little though that he is speaking openly about it to the press because that suggests that he has no shame about it. If he really has no shame at all about it, I would prefer that he be dragged into court.

If your reaction to this report is to excuse the behavior because the guy is an entrepreneur, I think your reaction is no better than, "It's OK because he's a member of our club."

"If the district attorney's office in Santa Clara County wanted to, it is more likely than not that they could get a conviction for illegal lodging (misdemeanor)."

I mention the risk of violating zoning laws below but I also asked a public defender their take on that aspect as well. They said pretty much that unless you could prove that AOL both knew and allowed this to occur, or could prove that they didn't actively try to discourage such things, you could not convict them of violating the rules. She related a case of a homeless person who was charged with loitering and the business was charged for allowing people to live at their facility in violation of zoning laws, but the case against the business was dismissed for lack of evidence that the business knew about the activity or allowed it. I expect AOL would use a similar defense in this case.

I meant that the district attorney could get a conviction of the young entrepreneur if he wanted to. "Illegal lodging" means sleeping where it is illegal to sleep.

Could you please reference the law that prohibits people sleeping on AOL's couches?

His security clearance was never revoked. Nobody directly informed him he couldn't sleep there. I'd say this is perfect 'grey area' since he didn't knowingly commit any crime and AOL didn't knowingly allow it.

>Could you please reference the law that prohibits people sleeping on AOL's couches?

Entering into a search engine the phrases "California penal code" and "illegal lodging" should allow you to find the text of the law.

I learned about this law when someone I knew was charged with illegal lodging for sleeping in one of the building at Stanford long ago. (He pled no lo contendere, had no priors, and was fined $100.)

No offense, but I do not want to discuss it with you anymore.

Just because his security badge kept working doesn't mean that he had the right to be there. He knew he wasn't supposed to be there (he made plans for what to do when he got kicked out). So, the law would be trespassing. There would probably also be some computer crime laws triggered for inappropriate use of resources.

It's not a grey area - he's just lucky people like him.

This is an exceptionally long rationalization for unethical behavior that well demonstrates why I am so opposed to the focus on "hustle" (or as you put it, "moxie") in some segments of the business world.

If someone leveraged this kind of "moxie" in interpreting a gray area of a contract with our corporation, I'd hesitate to do business with them again -- they couldn't be trusted to ethically consider both sides of a moral/ethical/legal quandary and resolve those gray areas to our mutual benefit.

I think we have different ideas about what the word 'rationalization' means because in my definition what I wrote does not fit that definition.

But to respond to this point: "I'd hesitate to do business with them again -- they couldn't be trusted to ethically consider both sides of a moral/ethical/legal quandary and resolve those gray areas to our mutual benefit."

When evaluating a series of events involving grey areas its always useful to try to understand the principles that are in play. Different sets of principles would lead you down two different paths.

You state your goal is to "resolve those gray areas to our mutual benefit." If you were an investor in Eric's startup you would see that his actions did exactly that, he resolved the grey area to the benefit of the startup which mutually benefits him and the investor. If he had been living for free in AOL's facility so that he could play Diablo III all day on their fast internet connection he would be resolving the grey area to benefit only himself.

So it seems that Eric's guiding principle is 'make the business successful.' And that is a good principle to invest in, but you have to consider 'at what cost.' And that is where people spend thousands of hours in business ethics classes. A typical ethics class might raise the question "Who was harmed?" and how. And the other party here is AOL, so it is up to AOL to determine how they would calculate the harm here. They could use a metric of "What would be different if this hadn't happened?" Would their network bill have changed? Would their food bill? Water bill? Since I've got visibility in to the way these things are costed I can tell you that no, there was probably zero difference in AOL's overall costs with Eric living there and had he not lived there. There was however potential liability on two counts, one the zoning laws don't allow for people to live in buildings zoned for commerce/industrial so AOL has a legal obligation to stop it when they find it, and two there is some injury liability if Eric managed to injure himself while living there. Some of that would be covered by their blanket policy on their facilities with respect to 'guests' and some they could be on the hook for if it could be proven that they knew he was living there and had done nothing about it. Since they clearly acted as soon as they became suspicious he was living there I don't think they incurred any legal liability at all.

Now Eric could use a similar line of reasoning to rationalize his action, I don't know one way or the other. I am just looking at the facts we know and observing what was at stake.

From a business perspective, if you have a potential partner who is focused on making the business successful you can be pretty sure they will resolve questions to your mutual benefit. On the other hand if they tend to resolve those questions to their personal benefit, without regard to the impact on the business then I agree they are not worth doing business with.

I prefer to work with people that resolve ethical questions ethically, not based on who benefits (or loses).

I prefer to work with people that resolve ethical questions ethically

So what you really mean is:

"I prefer to work with people that resolve ethical questions according to my personal, subjective ethical standards."

It's not like ethics is some simple, black and white thing, where every question has an obvious "right" and "wrong" (or "good" and "bad" ) answer. If ethics weren't subject to debate and controversy and analysis, the field would have become completely stagnant centuries ago, with no new philosophical work being produced.

This is a simple 'black and white' ethical case. He didn't have approval for the services and resources he consumed, he knew it was wrong (he purposefully avoided security), and he could have resolved any "gray area" at any time by simply asking permission. QED.

There's quite a bit of debate and philosophy on moral relativism, too. Which is the rhetorical baseball bat you're trying to apply here.

This is far from black and white. The question of to what extent to allow "the ends" (his educational startup) to justify "the means" is one of multi-player game theory and is far from resolved:


E.g. your reasoning would call Robin Hood evil. My conscience would call Robin Hood good. A full game-tree analysis would require investigating whether wealth concentration is good or bad for the tech progress that will cause the Singularity.

Robin Hood is only good if all the rich he robbed from were bad.

Unfortunately, many investors would not see this as a bad thing.

If Eric goes on to create a billion dollar business, has he not created more value that benefits society by creating jobs and overall economic value? Would you argue all of that value creation isn't worth the meager amount that he got out of hanging around AOL?

Steve Jobs dropped out of college and attended classes free of charge. Would you argue that he should never have started Apple, despite getting a free ride on a few classes?

You could attempt to argue for all sorts of horrific behavior from that basis. Your rationalization falls apart very quickly under any scrutiny.

If I rob a gas station, steal a thousand dollars, and invest that into Las Vegas Sands when it's $1 / share in 2009, ride it up to $60, liquidate out, and then help children that are dying from cancer, surely it's perfectly OK given the benefit to society.

AOL did not suffer from this. They explicitly encourage entrepreneurship, and if they really are so stringent that they don't want a scrappy entrepreneur getting a few free meals, they should have tightened up their security. Eventually they realized their own flaw, and eventually Eric moved on. I just can't get behind the folks who want to villify Eric and call it "theft" considering it was a discovery of a great hack in the system that didn't hurt anyone and will likely create net greater value.

Let's say someone hotwires your car and uses it without your permission to run a delivery business. According to your logic, if you didn't want a scrappy entrepreneur getting a few free rides you should have tightened up your vehicle's security? Maybe upgraded the doors so that they couldn't be opened with a slim jim? Installed aftermarket locks which are unpickable? After all, it's a great hack of the system and didn't hurt anyone and the delivery business will likely create net greater value, right?

To make a comparison more directly to AOL's stature, it'd be like saying I had an enormous fleet of cars and I wouldn't even notice one missing. I'm not conflating Eric's situation and encouraging everyone to be a criminal, but I'm not going to call Eric a criminal and get behind people's attitude that he has an awful moral compass because of petty theft (which is still unclear to me; did AOL not give him a badge? Did it not continue working?).

AOL is probably going to up their security because of this. It was something they should have done in the first place if Eric was allowed to do this the whole time. He's an entrepreneur, he got a few free meals and lifted some metal weights around at AOL's petty expense. I think people need to lighten up and appreciate the resilience and creativity, rather than scrutinize the individual who wasn't doing any real harm.

So you don't mind if anyone grabs a dollar from your pocket when you walk out of your house? What if everyone grabbed one?

This is the same argument everyone else is trying to make, and it's conflating unnecessarily. Eric broke a rule that didn't matter. Nobody was harmed from this.

> We joked at Google that they really did want you to live there

I heard from some Googlers that the company had considered building an apartment complex on or near the Mountain View campus. We joked that was Google building a "company town" and would pay employees with scrip that was only good at the company store.

This is an entertaining story, at most. The pursuit of round after round of funding that Eric - and many other entrepreneurs, surely - are striving for is concerning. What ever happened to the pursuit of a savvy business that brings in real profit? The hunt for funding needs to be replaced with a hunt for sustainability.

Am I wrong for believing that?

I agree that it is concerning.

The worst part is that I've seen attiudes subtly shift away from real entrepreneurial spirit and towards a "how do we make ourselves attractive to patrons" attitude.

It's a pragmatic choice, if you are going to be the subject of patronage and treated as such then you don't work on building a business you work on pleasing the patron so he and his friends will keep giving you money.

It's an unintended consequence of the very healthy VC/Angel ecosystem and consumer internet sites that are hard to monetize but still valued by the public. Maybe it's just a weird blip and not a big deal. But it's a direction that strikes me as unhealthy.

I wonder if he was eating our food. Playdom has three meals a day "up stairs" in that building, where we are headquartered and have an entire floor. There is also another startup incubator in this building. It's pretty funny they just mention AOL in the article.

Shameless self-promotion: If you guys want to have three awesome meals a day, you should check out ZeroCater. We will hook you up with food from the best places around. :)

I'm reminded of Rodney Rothman's My Fake Job (New Yorker, November 2000), a "personal history about the writer's tenure at an unnamed downtown Internet company where he did not actually have a job":


* Reporter's fake job irks real dot-com: http://articles.cnn.com/2000-12-05/tech/reporter.irks.dot.co...

This kid's drive and ambition is impressive, but using that as an excuse to ignore honesty? Sounds like he should be working on wall street, instead.

Kudos to David Tempkin for his response -- spot on. He recognized the situation for what it was, and responded most appropriately.

But here's the thing -- suppose he was instead sponging off a smaller, non-corporate, recently-funded, bootstrapped operation. Would everyone be calling him a go-getter? I'm guessing not, as the "theft" conversation would likely take a different tone.

This guy is fantastic. If what he's doing now with the new incubator doesn't work out I hope he considers applying to YC. Living at AOL is at least a good a story as selling cereal.

He also has been solo the whole time, which makes it more impressive. He had a cofounder who gave up, but Eric never budged.

Break the rules when it fits your own interests. This kid should leave the valley and move to Wall St.

> Update 9:31 a.m. PT: This story has been updated with a response from AOL.

What was the response? I can't find it in the article, would be interesting to see it.

> Contacted for comment, David Temkin, senior vice president of Mail and Mobile for AOL, told CNET, "It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn't expect it to work so well."

Understatement of the year.

There's one thing you can say about AOL: they have a sense of humor.

From that one statement alone, I suddenly have a lot more respect for AOL. That was hilarious.

Homeless entrepreneurs: The new cool thing.

Now I just need $50k or so.

And a contact at CNET.

Hearing about AOL throws me back to the late 90s.

And whenever I hear about them it is never in a technical context as in "check out this new database AOL techs created" it is more of "remember how AOL used to send people a ton of CDs?" or "Check out the statistics of people still using dial up"

I don't even remember what made them sort of quitely disappear from the radar? Was it broadband from cable companies and Verizon's Fios?

So I am wondering what do AOL tech people do there? Is it just maintenance to keep the dial-up server pool working?

Tech people at AOL not involved in maintaining the dial-up service are working on about.me, AIM, AOL.com, the Blogsmith CMS, features for blogs running on the Blogsmith CMS (Engadget, Autoblog, etc.), AOL Desktop, Games.com, Huffington Post, AOL Mail, Mapquest, Moviefone, Patch, Shortcuts, TechCrunch, and Winamp, to name a few.

And out of those things the last thing I remember using was probably reading an article from huffpo or techcrunch.

aka "I'm not dead yet"

Anybody know his Twitter username? The one linked to from the "About Us" page doesn't work.

Hi! My twitter is http://twitter.com/#!/ericsimons40 - not sure why it didn't work from the about page :O

This explains it:

@Support: Some users are having trouble accessing Twitter on the web. Our engineers are looking into it.


Either your page is down OR your spike in followers just crashed them...

Either way, good work!

I'm not are you aware of it, but you should pivot your start-up to something more in the lines of computer/bed/workplace/food sharing thingie for young enterpreneurs. And they pay you by their coding/designing man-hours (which you use to further your initial startup idea).

As I've similarly leeched for 2-3 weeks at my companies infrastructure with 5 china shop shirts/undies/pants, I relate and kudo you.

It's weird, it works fine in Safari, but not in Chrome (Version 21.0.1145.0 dev).

Great story and lucky for Eric he wasn't locked up in prison. Worth noting he was involved in an earlier project at AOL and they hadn't deactivated his pass. A without this things may have gone the other way.

I think Gates and Jobs spent nights at places they were working at, leveraging off free to use, latest technology.

His startup idea is great. There are variations out there already but maybe this story and network will turn this into something successful.

I'm sure once AOL eventually goes out of business, they can crash on his couch and use his shower. Fair enough he was using their facilities to work on his own projects and try and raise capital, but I admire his audacity. This is probably one of the most impressive things I've heard and read about in a long time.

Bending the truth gets you far - I spoke to a trainfan once who told everyone he was a train/locomotive driver/engineer and used that to travel all throughout Europe in traincabs

Also, it sounds a lot better than "lying."

Very cool story :) I understand the ethics arguments, but I can't find the heart to support them. I admire Eric's resourcefulness and outright balls ;)

So today I found myself reading Robert Burns' poem, “To a Mouse” (the origin of the famous phrase, “The best laid plans of mice and men”).

I think it's almost possible to read this poem in the voice of AOL talking to Eric Simons.


Good hustle, Eric. Sorry for dropping the ball on not getting back to ya but you've been making do better than I can.

Too bad his incubator wasn't at Google. He probably could have lived a little better down in Mountain View.

I had a friend that claimed he was squatting at Virginia Tech's Math Emporium. At the time I assumed he was joking (they didn't have showers) but now I'm not so sure anymore. And it's not like college students are renowned for their personal hygiene.

We had a homeless guy living in our dorm lounge for almost a week before someone realized he wasn't a student.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. "

His motivation and will to make his project exist is out of the ordinary and I respect that.

However his behaviour is just shameful. I guess the end, justify the means ...

Still I don't like it, one bit.

Discarding the primary point of this article (squatting at AOL), today is my last day of college (16-18 age bracket in the UK), and you can tell that every single lesson is the same as it was five years ago, bar electronics because it's a new exam board and the teacher is only just finding his feet.

Computing, we still use VB6 for coursework, Chemistry, everything is photocopied with ye olde dates on

Props to him for attempting to introduce variety into lesson plans, thankfully, today is the last day of copying out photocopy masters from a whiteboard onto paper

Off-topic, but you should think about going to http://youngrewiredstate.org this summer. It's a week-long open data hack that ends with 1-2 days of camping at Bletchley Park. I've been to it two years running now and it's done wonders.

Similar to that Duke U. student who lived in a van on campus. Of course he was paying for tuition.

Also reminds me of Half Baked and the guy on the couch.

See film 'Secret of My Success' with Michael J. Fox for similiar plot. Great film.

Where did he work during the day as to not be noticed by hundreds of employees?

I think "don't die" refer mostly to his ambition and startup....epic!

love this guys hustle

Maybe he should have brought the security guard on as a co-founder?

Simons' supervisor commented that he was a model employee for AOL's Palo Alto Office.

"Eric was always on time, never late for work."

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact