Before I get into how I ended up in a WSJ article, I need to explain a little bit of the magic of San Francisco… In the summer of 2013, my life sky-rocketed onto a path of fortuity. I miraculously landed an internship in California with the most valuable company in the world (read - How I Landed a FAANG Internship with 0 Hours Practiced with “Cracking the Code”). While I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my existence to get a full time offer (read - I Slept Under my Desk Every Night at my FAANG Internship), I still managed to experience the wonder and magic that was Silicon Valley.
There were tech events after tech events and I kept bumping into the same groups of people. Folks who were members of this program called the Thiel Fellowship. It was essentially a grant for students under 20 years old who were given $100,000 each to drop out of college and pursue their ambitions, hand picked by Thiel’s organization. Peter Thiel is infamous in the tech scene. He cofounded PayPal with the PayPal mafia which includes the likes of Elon Musk. The popular HBO series “Silicon Valley” satirizing the tech industry even has a character based on Thiel where his character is seen receiving blood transfusions from the young to extend his youthfulness.
The following summer of 2014 after graduating from UMass Amherst, I returned to the Bay Area to work at my startup, Loopd (read - How My College Startup Got Backed by Legendary VC Tim Draper). Just 30 minutes north of me in the heart of the mission, 20 Thiel Fellows lived under one 10 bedroom, 4 bath roof. It was the largest living space I’ve ever seen in SF and I got invited to one of their parties. Living in this house were folks like Ari and Conrad founders of workflow which got acquired by Apple, Vitalik founder of Ethereum, and Lucy cofounder of Scale.ai a unicorn/billion dollar company.
It was love at first sight and I knew I wanted to live there. What better environment for someone passionate about startups than to live with other crazy talented founders and engineers. It required some patience because the house was already full of Thiel Fellows who were given the option to stay or leave after getting 3 months free sponsored by the fellowship. By the time I moved in, I had parted ways with my startup and I had started my career in FAANG. I chose to live in what was later deemed a hacker house for college dropouts because I didn’t want to become complacent in the corporate world.
As the only person working in corporate, I had the most free time. As you may know… startup founders don’t really stop working. Someone needed to manage the house and my desire to contribute led to my volunteering.
I want to note that the house was first managed by a startup called Campus, which was also founded by a Thiel Fellow. It was such a cool concept to me at the time because my monthly dues granted me access to the other campus community houses scattered across the US. I could book a complimentary stay at a mansion in Napa, or a cabin retreat in Tahoe. Campus set out to acquire leases for as many suitable co-living properties for its members and they interviewed and sourced their own tenants while placing them into communities that best fit their interests. In 2015 the company went under and everyone in the house was at risk of being kicked out. I couldn’t let that happen so I took over as master tenant and began collecting rent from everyone to pay the landlord.
My time with Mission Control (the name we agreed on to call our house - not to be confused with the sex positive, orgy community) were the most transformative and impactful years of my life. I discovered who I am there and fostered a healthy community that continues to thrive to this day (maybe i’ll write more about the good ole MC days in another post).
Right! So back to the main point of this story, thanks to the efforts of talented founders like Ari who were whipping up a storm with their product launches, word got out that they lived in a big house in SF with other college dropouts building startups. It was a juicy story at the time and WSJ sent a crew to take videos, headshots of the housemates, and write a story about us. The great irony in this article is that of the 9 housemates whose photographs were taken for the print, my girlfriend and I were the only two with college degrees… And that’s how I ended up in a Wall Street Journal article.