19-Year-Old Lives In AOL Offices For 2 Months, No One Notices

You know that co-worker who’s always there when you come in in the morning and also when you leave at night? Maybe their work ethic isn’t as amazing as you think. Maybe they don’t even work there, and are squatting in the office as a free place to sleep, eat, work out, bathe, and work on launching their own tech startup.

He got in the building as part of an incubator program hosted at the AOL campus in Palo Alto, Calif. When the program ended, his badge kept working. So unlike his colleagues who headed back to college, he stuck around to work on launching his company, ClassConnect. Without a job or funding, he set out to live on less than $30 a month.

The secrets to office squatting, which you should NEVER EVER do:

  • Work more than 12 hours a day. Everyone around you will admire your work ethic.
  • Find a comfy couch that isn’t visible from security guards’ nightly rounds.
  • Get up early and spend the first part of your day at the gym. Blend in with all of the fitness-conscious people who come in early to work out.

Of course, this wouldn’t work as well at companies that don’t provide amenities like a gym and a laundromat to employees.

After he was thrown out, he continued to crash on friends’ couches. But not on AOL’s.

Meet the tireless entrepreneur who squatted at AOL [CNET]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Chmeeee says:

    This reminds me of the guy that made an apartment in the Providence Place garage and lived there for a couple of years.


    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Those guys might have been able to make a case on squaters rights and adverse possession. A lawyer would have to dig into the details.

      Trying to claim the space may be a bit far, but it would be an interesting defense to the trespassing charges.

      • shepd says:

        That takes several years (usually around 10+) and it must be open and notorious. In other words, not purposely hidden by a wall like this was. If it were tents in a handicapped space, then they’d be OK–once they got away with it for the necessary decade or so–since that would be completely open to the owner’s view and obvious enough to fill in for “notorious”. :)

        • bhr says:

          In 2008ish I lived in my office for a month or so. I had to move because I didn’t want to renew my lease, but wasn’t positive I wanted to move closer to this job because it felt tenuous.

          I had a really nice couch, a fridge and a private bathroom. I was also expected to open and lock the building most days, so no one really noticed.

        • SJActress says:

          It would also have to be exclusive possession. Doesn’t really work for this story.

    • RandomHookup says:
  2. Demonpiggies says:

    #4: Make blanket and fire out of unused AOL disks.

  3. Rick Sphinx says:

    Well, at least he was alive, unlike the guy who died sitting at his desk, and no one noticed for him for 5-days! Guess there is no office chit-chat around that guy. See…Office chit-chat is good!

  4. AtlantaCPA says:

    Reading the article you actually get respect for the guy. It’s also amazing that AOL didn’t boot him out of the program after finding him living there and he has gone on to continue to launch his company. This needs to be a movie!!

    • Taylor Rolyat says:

      If/When ClassConnect goes public, then it can be a movie.

    • kcvaliant says:

      Probably because if it goes well, aol will own it as it was created on their premises with their equipment.

    • kcvaliant says:

      Probably because if it goes well, aol will own it as it was created on their premises with their equipment.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    How Steven Spielberg supposedly got started:

    Every day, for three months in a row, I walked through the gates dressed in a sincere black suit and carrying a briefcase. I visited every set I could, got to know people, observed techniques, and just generally absorbed the atmosphere.

    One day in 1969, when I was 21, I put on a suit and tie and sneaked past the guard at Universal, found an empty bungalow, and set up an office. I then went to the main switchboard and introduced myself and gave them my extension so I could get calls. It took Universal two years to discover I was on the lot.

  6. That guy. says:

    The key to not being noticed squatting in an office is to select a company everyone forgot exists.

    • xanadustc says:

      Yep…most people have forgotten AOL exists…I am in the web industry and I have no idea what they do now?!?! (Yes, I did see the report a few months back that several tens of thousands of people still bought a dial-up connection….)

      • human_shield says:

        Maybe. I visited AOL.com for 5 minutes and couldn’t find any way to sign up for any dialup service. Lots of tabloid-like articles though.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I still see emails with “@aol.com” and I kinda say “Really?”

  7. chizu says:

    Back when I was in college, I heard this story from some of the fellow students. Our major was really demanding so many students end up sleeping in studio, on the couch, at the drafting table, where ever we can crash overnight. There’s a shower in the men’s bathroom, and there’s a small couch in the women’s bathroom too. As a matter of fact, one of my professors had an air mattress in his office and he’d shower in the bathroom and crashed on his mattress at night. Anyway, apparently one of the students ended up living in the building because he couldn’t afford rent in the area — he would shower at the gym and slept under the stairs case (he even set up his “little room”). He was later caught and got kicked out of the university. (This was what I was told.) It was quite unfortunate because most students slept in the studio anyway, and we practically lived there. If he really did get punished or kicked out of school, he must have also done something stupid because everyone in the building knew students spent endless nights in the building.

    I guess my story doesn’t have much to do with this, but it just reminded me of my days when I was in college…

    • RandomLetters says:

      Was his name Lazlo Hollyfeld?

    • econobiker says:

      When I was in college we posed similar question about living in the studio or on-campus hidden and using the student recreation facilities to shower.

      Or buying a conversion van and living in the student parking lot.

    • lockdog says:

      I was a theatre tech major, so classes all morning, work in the scene shop in the afternoon, rehearsals at night, then head down to the basement design studios to start working on homework. Crash on a couch in props storage, shower in a dressing room. A guy a year or two ahead of me had picked the lock into the plenum and moved in there. It’s a huge empty room that is under the house/seating portion of theatre. He lived there for several months, brought in furniture and everything. He eventually got caught when he decided to get stoned down their on afternoon. What he didn’t consider was that the reason this huge room was completely empty, bare concrete was because a plenum isn’t intended to be a room at all, but is basically a giant cold air return for the whole building. When every stage, class room, studio and the shop all started to smell like weed every person that paid attention during the lectures on stage and performance building architecture was able figure it out.

  8. Quirk Sugarplum says:

    To be fair, AOL was fairly unware it still had offices anymore.

  9. yaos says:

    More proof the only way to run a business is by stealing and lieing.

  10. geargutz says:

    I remember we used to spend production weekends at the college newspaper sleeping on the office couches. It allowed us to do editing and layout until 3-4 am, wake up at 10, and start at it again… Those were the days… and man did we smell funny.

  11. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I think I could get away with living in my office, but my wife and kids would be too much.

  12. Mamudoon says:

    AOL still exists?

  13. Corinthos says:

    Guy lived in my office for over a month. He would have probably stayed longer if he would have stayed off the internet on hours he wasn’t supposed to be at work. In order to get on our work computers you have to log in with your ID. If you are away for over 30 minutes it logged you out. IT thought his account was compromised because he was logging randomly 24 hours a day.

    None of our managers communicate and probably just thought he was in the building working over time.

  14. Cat says:

    At least he wasn’t living in his mommy’s basement playing video games.

  15. blogger X says:

    Occupy AOL? Lol this guy is my hero!

  16. KitanaOR says:

    On a tour of Google, I noticed they had everything you needed to live (showers, laundry, free food) and said I was surprised that no one tried to just live in their office and was told someone did. No other details than that though.

  17. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    in 2000, I lived in my NYC office for about 2 months without anyone knowing.

    I had an apartment where the lease was up, and was going to be moving into a new place with a friend. But a week before we’re slated to move in, he decides he’s going to move in with his girlfriend instead. I couldn’t afford the new place on my own, and my old place was already slated to be rented out as soon as I moved out.

    So while I had my stuff in storage and looked for a new place, I just stayed at the office during the week and would get a hotel or go visit friends on weekends. There was no security to worry about in the building, and my office was located way off the main drag, so people never really came back there, even during the day.

  18. aleck says:

    I did not even notice that AOL was still around.

  19. Holden Caufield says I'm a phonie says:

    In a related story, a 19 year old that people thought was homeless was just living in CompuServe’s offices.

  20. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Kind of a neat story on the one hand: smart kid makes good, etc.

    On the other hand, I can see scores of other kids trying this because either A) they’re lazy and are looking for an excuse not to work, B) they have an unwarranted sense of entitlement that makes them believe everything should be free, or C) a combination thereof.

    Then there are the legal ramifications of him using AOL resources, without their knowledge, to create software he plans to develop further and perhaps one day license. Well, AOL might demand a cut of that action — even though he wasn’t on their payroll. AOL basically supported him in the initial stages of this endeavor, much like a parent or spouse would.

    I admire his spirit and boldness, don’t get me wrong. But leeching off a company like this doesn’t set a good example. (And yes, I know the Steven Spielberg story. Dwight Yoakam has a good one, too. So does James Cameron. And Dustin Hoffman…)

  21. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    Or, scoot in and out of the A/C ducts of a community college with a monkey as a roommate? :D

  22. gqcarrick says:

    It would have been cooler if he had some secret room like Lazlo Hollyfeld did in Real Genius.

  23. elangomatt says:

    There was a college professor at the college I work at that was living in her office for months. No windows on the office doors in the main building so nobody knew she was there once she closed the door and she showered in the fitness center onsite. I am pretty sure she even had a mini-fridge in her office since that is allowed (though frowned upon). I don’t know how she was caught, but she eventually was.

  24. Snapdragon says:

    Security badge disable fail!

  25. econobiker says:

    “Having spent several months legitimately working in the building, often quite late, Simons had noticed that although there were security guards with nightly rounds, there were at least three couches that seemed outside those patrols. “

    Please note that he found the overlooked, blind alleyway in the system and used it.

  26. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    One more thing: look at the photo. This kid already thinks he’s Steve Jobs.

    Or Zuckerberg maybe, though that IPO didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

  27. frodolives35 says:

    I am not a bum I am a Harvard bum there is a difference.

  28. StopGougingMeThere! says:

    Am I the only one that thinks this kid’s idea is a really good one? I know the story is about his squatting but wouldn’t a comprehensive database for lesson plans, notes, and ideas be really beneficial to the teaching community? Seems like he might be on to something.

  29. IGNORE says:

    How to succeed in business without really trying.

    Love it!

  30. OutThere says:

    This is seriously about to be me right now. This probably won’t do any good, but I need a place to live in the SF Bay Area *now* so if you think you can help me out, please give me a call at 864-416-1809.