I Became Homeless For 3 Months to Find Funding For My Startup

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What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned living out of your car for so long?

Living in your car makes everything deliberate. You don’t just stumble in and take a shower, you drive to the YMCA, get everything in your bag, then go take a shower. It’s really good to set out and do everything intentionally instead of just going with the flow. I like to say that you have to happen to life instead of letting it happen to you.

Did anyone ever offer a place for you to stay once they heard you were living out of your car?

Yes, there were a few people who offered me a couch, but I became pretty content on living in a car. I hate imposing on people, and living in a car wasn’t really all that bad.

Although living in such an environment was a sacrifice, the gamble paid off and you actually got a few investment offers for it, would you recommend doing what you did to struggling entrepreneurs out there low on cash?

It did pay off, but it was super, super stressful at times. It wasn’t the fact that I was living in a car that stressed me out, but the fact that I had no money, and I had expenses coming. My car broke down on the freeway and I had to put it on my credit card which was almost maxed out – I only worked my way out of that hole by scalping tickets to a soccer game that weekend. I made a little over $600 in one night or I would have been in big, big trouble.

I think the moral of the story is you get creative and do whatever you have to do to find a way. You look at quitting and say, “That’s not an option” and you figure it out. That’s how you end up living in a car in the first place, you just know that you’re going to make it happen, and short of divine intervention nothing will stop you.

I don’t know if you can just will a company into existence, but I’ve found that you can get a really, really long way on willpower alone. If you keep grinding and working stuff seems to work out.

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You made a blog post very recently about having your car almost impounded by the secret service? What happened?

I was driving down the freeway and my car just stopped working. I pulled off to the side of the road, only to be informed by a police officer that I had to get my car off the road or it would be impounded by the Secret Service, as Barack Obama’s caravan was about to come through.

That was definitely a low point; I was already broke, and now I had a car repair. I had to get it towed off the freeway to a mechanic’s shop. It would have made complete sense to bail at that point, but for some reason that just made me double down even more. I believe in the company we’re building and its potential impact on the world, and to stop building it because my car broke down would have felt utterly selfish.

The tow truck driver (who I keep in touch with to this day) and the mechanic offered to let me stay at their houses and the mechanic said he would let me use his car; they must have noticed how desperate my circumstances were. But my co-founder came and got me and we figured it out.

You’ve hit the absolute lowest of the lows when it comes to being completely broke and struggling to to find even the basic means of living–but yet you’ve kept going. It kind of reminds me of 50 cent’s saying of “get rich or die trying”, is that the kind of attitude you live by?

I don’t know how I feel about the “get rich” aspect of that; if I were in it for the money it wouldn’t be worth it. I believe Grasswire can be not only a successful company but can change the way we communicate and the way we receive our information, and that is a really, really big deal. I have a strong sense of duty in that regard; I won the birth lottery in every way, and I am doing everything I can to make the world better in the one little corner I’ve decided to start going after.

What do you tell yourself every time you feel like quitting?

That’s not an option. It’s just not an option.

You mentioned that you recently got married, congrats! There is a small debate that goes on regarding whether you should be dating when building a startup. It’s obvious where you stand in that regard. What have been the positives being in a relationship while trying to fulfill your dreams?

I don’t think I could have done it without my wife (who was my fiancé at the time). She believes in and supports me the way nobody else in the world does, and I’m extremely grateful for her.

There’s something very lonely about being a startup founder; you’re trying to do create something out of nothing, and that’s hard. But she was always there.

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Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom of advice you already live by that you can share for our readers?

Just get stuff done and keep on going. I think that’s the essence of entrepreneurship; you just keep getting stuff done no matter what. I started working on Grasswire in different incarnations as early as the beginning of 2012, and our ideas and product sucked. But we found a problem we were hellbent on fixing, and as we studied and built the idea grew and evolved until it became something that we think is feasible and will be impactful. So just keep going.

Follow Austen:

Company Website: Grasswire

Personal Website: http://www.austenallred.com/

Twitter: @AustenjAllred

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