TL;DR: Because I’m thinking a lot about all the students on the edge of a new life and thinking about giving up, I’m going to share a story I’ve never shared before. By Austen Allred, CEO of Lamba School
Right on the Edge of Failure
I would shower at the YMCA on Ross Road in Palo Alto and work out of the Hacker Dojo. On my way between the two it just stopped on the freeway. One day it just seized up, and I found myself in a dead car (that I lived in) on the side of the freeway.
The tow truck driver (who I keep in touch with to this day) offered to let me stay at his place, but I didn’t even have enough money to pay for the tow, let alone the repair – the combination of the two were going to run me $600 I didn’t have.
At the same time there was a billboard for a soccer game at Stanford Stadium. In the past I’d scalped tickets to make an extra buck, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
But even a great day of scalping wouldn’t make you $600, so I started looking around at the tickets online.
I started cold emailing and cold calling everyone that had tickets online, even though I couldn’t afford to buy any.
One guy had an extra 200 unsold tickets that were going to be worth $0. I convinced him to send them to me and I’d sell them and give him half.
Digging up the photos because otherwise you’d think I was lying.
So what do you do with 200 tickets and 24 hours to sell them? You just try to move them as fast as you can.
The difficult thing about Stanford Stadium is there’s no single entrance – no corner you can work.
Experienced scalpers all started showing up with bikes. Bikes! Genius.
The leader was named “Vegas.” We worked a deal. I sold tickets to him at a discount, and he and his friends on bikes would go spread out. I sold them to him for $10-15 to him, and $40 myself.
Vegas was a much better scalper than me. I watched him flip a four pack of lowers for $80 each right in front of me. I never dared charge that much.
I didn’t have time for accounting, so I just kept huge wads of cash in my pockets.
By five minutes after opening kick I was selling them for $5 each, and by about 20 mins into the game no one was buying, so I took two of the last four (they happened to be great seats) and watched the second half of the game.
All said and done, when I got back to my car I had a wad of $1,500 in my pocket. Enough to send half to the original owner of the tickets, pay off the mechanic and tow truck driver, and I went to *Subway* (an absolute luxury at the time).
And that is how I *barely* managed to stay in Silicon Valley to fight another day.
Sometimes we all end up right on the edge of failure. But there’s always a way. Even when it seems like there’s not a way out.
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