How to Live on AOL's California Campus for Free

This article is from the archive of our partner .

By now you might have heard about Eric Simons, the 19-year-old who crashed at AOL's Palo Alto campus for two months until he was finally caught and thrown out. Here's how he did it:

Have a working building pass  Simons was in Palo Alto initially with the incubator Imagine K12 to work on his startup, a lesson plan sharing platform for teachers called ClassConnect. After the four month program ended, his building pass kept working. Simons couldn't afford his own place in California, so he decided to crash at the AOL building. "They had a gym there with showers," Simons told CNET. "I'd take a shower after work. I was like, 'I could totally work here...They have food upstairs, they have every drink on tap. This would be a sweet place to live.'"

Know the security routes  After working there for four months, often well into the night, Simons figured out the routes the security guards took on their nightly rounds, and noticed three couches in blind spots they never checked. He'd stay up late coding in a room on campus somewhere and then crash on one of those couches.

Be an early riser  Simons woke up every morning between 7 and 8 a.m. to avoid being seen sleeping on the couches in the hallways by anyone just on their way in to work.

Stay fit  After waking up early enough to avoid getting busted, Simons hit the campus gym every morning to stay fit. He'd work out, shower and then hit the cafeteria for a quick bowl of cereal before breakfast. "I got a really good work ethic," he said, "and I got in shape, since I had to work out every morning."

Pack light  A key part of being a campus hobo was packing light. "I only had maybe five to ten T-shirts, a pair of jeans, and a pair of shorts," Simons said. Everything he had with him could fit neatly into one of the gyms lockers, and the gym had a washer and dryer so he could do laundry and avoid smelling like he was crashing on a couch for two months.

Be a spend thrift  Simons was able to get by on less than $30 a day. "It was a game I was playing," he said. "What is the minimum amount of money I can spend each day to stay alive. You do some crazy things." Everything he needed was on campus, so as long as he didn't get caught, and could stand eating nothing but cereal and ramen for a while than he could get away with spending so little.

Have a back-up plan  Simons had a couple friends in the Palo Alto area who knew about his scam, and they helped him with strategies for staying alive as long as possible. He knew it wouldn't last though, so he made alternate plans. "After the first month, I was like, 'This has worked so far, but this probably isn't sustainable,'" he said. He asked his friends if, or when, he was finally caught it would be okay if he crashed on their couch.
To their credit, AOL is taking the whole thing in stride. The manager who eventually busted Simons "ripped [him] a new one," but David Temkin, senior vice president of Mail and Mobile for AOL, joked about the story with CNET, saying "It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn't expect it to work so well." Simons' hard work while crashing at AOL paid off, too. He was able to get enough funding for Class Connect to get a house in the area and stay in the area.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.