Officials at AOL's campus in Palo Alto, California, were shocked back in May when they discovered 20-year-old would-be entrepreneur Eric Simons squatting there while getting his start-up off the ground.
With no money for rent, he slept on common-area couches, showered in the gym, kept his clothes in spare lockers and helped himself to the snacks AOL set out for entrepreneurs to share. All the while he was working 15 hours a day on his big idea.
AOL quickly showed Eric the door at that point . But all's well that ends well. Some investors rather liked his Oliver Twist act - and with their backing, Simons and his team of four were able to rent office space nearby.
And this coming week, Simons will take the wraps off his new company, an online community called Claco that lets teachers share lesson plans and tips. You can request an invite to the beta site at www.claco.com.
"We're crowdsourcing education," he said, "to give every person in the world access to the best teachers."
Simons got the idea three years ago while a high school senior. "The content being used in the classroom right now is very static -- it's not engaging," he said. "And the process of developing new content is time-intensive for teachers."
So after graduating from high school, he left Chicago and headed west. His parents "weren't thrilled" he wasn't going to college. But with the The Social Network" in mind, he was determined.
"You could feel his enthusiasm, and he's a fantastic coder," Tim Brady, Claco's first investor -- told the San Jose Mercury News. Brady " knows something about startups," said the paper - he was the first hire at Yahoo.
Since leaving Yahoo 10 years ago, Brady has focused on education technology, including an incubator called Imagine K12.
Simons was among the first batch of entrepreneurs to go through the three-month programme last summer.
The incubator leased space in AOL's Page Mill Road offices. And that's how Simons was able to keep slipping into the building even after his time in the programme ended.
"It's a pretty big building, so he was able to get away with it," said Brady. He said he had no clue what Simons was up to until CNET broke the story.
An early trial of the service brought in 16,000 teachers, Simons said. All ages were represented from kindergarten up to around age 18. Several thousand more have signed up for the beta, which will be formally announced on Wednesday.
"I love it," said Erin Klein, a second-grade teacher in Michigan whom Simons invited to test the product last year after finding her education-themed Twitter feed.
Although the public version of the site has only been up a few days, Simons already is thinking of more ways to make money -- such as letting teachers buy additional storage. "We've already got content publishers coming to us saying, 'We'd love to advertise on your platform,' " he said.
There are 3.9 million K-12 teachers in the U.S. alone, and schools spend $25 billion a year on textbooks and other content, Simons sees a market opportunity.
Still, he claims there's more to Claco than making money: Teachers who've participated in the early trial, he said, reported their students' grades had gone up an average of 8 percent.