Infamous AOL Squatter Launches Education Startup

Eric Simmons

A few months ago, an ambitious 20-year-old tech entrepreneur named Eric Simons made headlines when it was discovered he was secretly living at AOL’s Palo Alto campus, posing as an employee. He gained access to the swanky office by being part of the first class through the Imagine K12 tech incubator back when he was working on a startup called ClassConnect with a few college partners. He received $20,000 in venture capital, worked up some great energy for the startup and made some connections with investors. Sounds like a perfect story for a young entrepreneur, doesn’t it?

But then the money ran out. Simons didn’t have a place to live because his partners had all moved back to college. Fortunately, Simons’ AOL badge still worked. So he ended up living there. You can read the full saga of Simons’ squatting experience at AOL from Daniel Terdiman of CNET who ended up breaking the story.

Simons’ amusing story may have irked a few security guards, but his ambition and resourcefulness caught the attention of several angel investors. Now, his education startup ClassConnect is officially off the ground, rechristened as Claco.

Claco is another online community for teachers, allowing them to share lesson plans and tips. The old ClassConnect website offered a few words to those teachers who have been following the service since its first realization:

“… you’ll have the ability to showcase your curriculum to the world as well as find/use curriculum from other great teachers. You can still share your curriculum with students and parents as well.”

An early trial of the service opened up in March—before Simons ended up sneaking around the AOL office—which netted 16,000 K-12 teachers. A second-grade teacher from Michigan named Erin Klein called the teacher-sharing platform a hybrid between Pinterest and Dropbox. A teacher interested in using the internet to find educational content may need to devote several hours to searching. Claco is designed to bring teachers together in one network, allowing quick access to content.

“Given all that teachers are asked to do, it seems a big waste of time to re-create the wheel when there’s stuff out there that they can take and tailor to their own needs,” said Tim Brady of Yahoo fame, and the first investor in Claco. Of Simons, Brady said, “You could feel his enthusiasm, and he’s a fantastic coder.”

Eric Simons’ entrepreneurial story is the kind of thing movies are made from. He showed true dedication to forming an education startup and went to extreme lengths to make sure his idea got off the ground. We’re excited to see where Claco goes and what kind of trouble Simons gets himself into next. Who knows, perhaps Joseph Gordon Levitt can play him in the movie?