Rumor has it that you have to raise money in order to survive in Silicon Valley. Most people are afraid of moving there because of the money factor. Well, I spent the last three months in Mountain View and my costs totaled just shy of $250. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It just depends on how badly you want it.
Let’s go over the major costs:
I was lucky enough to have a cousin in Menlo Park who offered me a room behind his house. Three months of free rent and utilities certainly helped. Thankfully, my grandparents also lived about two hours away, so during the weekends I stayed with them. If you have any family or friends in the area, just ask, and if not, try to find a cheap housing arrangement on Craigslist or AirBNB.
I'm proud to say that I spent approximately $20 on food this summer, thanks to a strategy I perfected over time. First off, breakfast. The office where I worked provided an incredible breakfast each morning: oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit and more. Lunch, I either had toasted bagels and cream cheese at the office or I made sure to schedule lunch with someone that would be happy to cover it, ahead of time. For dinner, I attended events with delicious food every night.
The two best part of events are networking and eating. Thanks to EpicLaunch, I was able to obtain a complimentary press pass for most events. I found out about 95% of events by religiously reading Startup Digest, Plancast and Garys Guide. Be creative; a meal doesn't have to be in a restaurant or at home in a traditional way. If you open up yourself to other options you’ll certainly be able to save money.
My primary method of transportation was a bike that I borrowed from a friend. When I needed to travel long distances I biked to the train station and bought eligible discount tickets since I was under 18. On most days, I took the train which, unfortunately, made up the bulk of my costs for the summer.
Office Space and Infrastructure
One of the greatest benefits to being a part of the Teens In Tech incubator was having access to many resources at no cost. First off, we had incredible office space at Appcelerator. The incubator also provided us with free hosting, incredible mentors and educational workshops.
Throughout this experience I gained an entire suitcase of clothing—for free. Throughout my stay, I collected over 30 startup shirts, including: Klout, Disqus, Mozilla, Bump, Udemy,Livefyre, Meebo, Evernote, Waze, Salesforce, Olark, Teens In Tech, WePay, Uservoice,Formspring and many, many more. I will admit that I had to pay $15 for my own startup shirt to represent MySchoolHelp. Since I only bought one and wore it almost every other day I made a serious investment in Axe deodorant. If you’re interested in seeing pictures of some of the shirts feel free to take a look here.
Asides from shirts, I also needed business cards, stickers and magnets. I printed business cards through Vistaprint, which was the cheapest option and included a 50% discount. Since I had hosted a custom magnet giveaway on EpicLaunch earlier in the summer, the sponsor company, Uprinting, provided me with 100 of my own in return. And thanks to my buddy Noah Kagan at AppSumo, we worked out a deal to promote AppSumo on EpicLaunch and he gave me access to their StickerMule deal for free.
As Kyle Macdonald described me on Twitter: I’m "epic frugal," which is certainly true, but it was all for the greater good for my startup. For all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there who want to make their way to Silicon Valley, believe me—it’s 100% worth it.
Ben Lang is an 18-year-old entrepreneur and the founder of the popular blog for young entrepreneurs, EpicLaunch. Ben's entrepreneurial journey began at age 14 when he started his own eBay business, and he is considered a thought leader for teenage entrepreneurship. Ben is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.