No, I'm not talking about how AOL has been unable to successfully transition from an internet service provider to, well, anything else. I'm talking about a recent CNET story that showcased a student, Eric Simmons, who squatted at AOL HQ in Palo Alto, CA for over 2 months before being caught. The fascinating part about this story isn't how Simons evaded security or made the most of the perks offered to AOL employees, but how after being caught AOL didn't straight up hire him.
Simons worked long hours for basically nothing, save for a few meals and gym and laundromat access at AOL's Palo Alto HQ, while he attempted to build his startup -- a business trying to combine aspects of social media with teacher lesson planning. He was finally caught by one of the building managers and forced out.
Ask any company what are the most difficult aspects of improving and growing, and hiring dedicated and top-notch employees will inevitably make its way into the conversation. AOL did it right by allowing the Imagine K12 incubator to operate on their campus, giving AOL access to a pool of entrepreneurs looking to make a difference, but while good workers are hard to come by, amazing individuals are diamonds in the rough, and a smart business can't afford to let those individuals slip through. AOL managed to find a way to do just that.
Eric has since moved on and has received some seed money from a VC firm to continue working on his idea. And they had no problem with what he did at AOL.
"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."
Companies spend 10's of thousands of dollars recruiting people to come work for them, hoping they find somebody tenacious and committed, just like Simons. AOL had the guy and let a small transgression blind them to what he could have offered them.