AOL staffers were impressed by Eric Simons’ dedication to his job at AOL – he was always first in in the morning, and last to leave at night. As it turned out, Simons was never leaving, and wasn’t even employed by AOL. He’d found a way to save some cash but squatting on site.
After working on a project at the site for four months, the 19-year-old entrepreneur discovered his swipe card still worked. He developed a system that kept his residency at the Palo Alto campus secret for two months.
Simons would work on his own project on site until everyone had left for the day, then head for a couch he had worked out was outside the guards’ patrol area. An early morning alarm got him to the gym at 7am, as the first employees were starting to arrive. Because there were so many other staff members and on-going projects no one thought to ask whether he actually worked there.
"There were so many people going in and out each day," Simons says. "They'd say, 'Oh, he just works here, he's working late every night. Wow, what a hard worker.'"
Simons spent just $30 in that first month, and since his cover required considerable gym time he got fit at the same time. Unfortunately, the dream time had to end. A guard caught him at 6am one morning and kicked him out.
AOL has taken the news good-naturedly – David Temkin, AOL's senior vice president of Mail and Mobile, says: "It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office—we just didn't expect it to work so well."
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