4-months of life on the road and food in a bottle: My Silicon Valley 500 Startups survival story

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but Silicon Valley is expensive. Really expensive!

Maybe I’m just naive. I’m not a native, after all. Allow me to introduce myself. My name’s David Kanel, and I’m the co-founder of Nice.

Nice is a video shopping platform that allows people to watch unboxing, haul and review videos and buy what they find interesting.

We were accepted into 500 Startups’ batch 17 this summer. Great news! The problem was, it meant finding a way to survive in Silicon Valley.

500 Batch 17 with Dave McClure

And, if I haven’t made it clear already, Silicon Valley is really expensive.

Thankfully, this wasn’t my first rodeo. My first startup, Boxc, was a part of 500 Startup’s batch 6. Then came Givesurance, my wife’s startup, that was picked up by 500 Startups’ batch 10. So at least I had some idea of what I was getting myself into.

Or, at least, I thought I did.

The times, they are a changin’

Let’s just say that it had been awhile since my last visit to the Valley, and prices haven’t gone down. Fundraising has become harder than ever.

Craigslist made it pretty clear that there was no way I could afford a room. Hotels were too expensive. Even Airbnb was out of my price range. Then there was the cost of food, utilities, gas … You get the idea. As a bootstrapped founder, I wanted to cut costs everywhere possible.

So I researched. I brainstormed. I threw my hands in the air in frustration a couple times. But then I found my solution, and it looked like this:

1998 Dodge Pleasure Way parked near by 500 Startups in Mountain View, CA

RV, sweet RV

An RV.

If I could get my hands on an RV, I’d knock out two birds with one stone: Lodging and transportation.

RVs aren’t cheap. The only way I could justify it would be to buy one for half its market value, then turn it around for a profit at the end of my stay.

After a ton of research and hundreds of Craigslist ads, there it was: A 1998 Dodge Pleasure Way in a perfect condition: 19 feet of fully-contained, sleep-anywhere, go-wherever goodness. The holy grail of RVs.

But there was a problem (isn’t there always?). I only had $10,000 to spend, and this beauty was listed at $18,000.

In an act of either madness or faith (or maybe a bit of both), I showed up at the seller’s doorstep with my limited cash in hand. Long story short, I left later that day $10,000 poorer, but one RV richer. And for the next four months, that was to be my home and office on the go.

Home and office is where I park — Getting ready for a last minute investor call that came up while driving to LA.

The bare necessities

So that was two problems down. Now I had to worry about food, fuel, and hygiene.

Hygiene was easy enough. I joined a 24-Hour Fitness gym for their showers. As fate would have it, my association with the gym even rekindled my workout routines.

Fuel I got for a discount thanks to fellow batch 17’er FuelPanda, a brilliant startup that delivers fuel where you are parked.

That just left food. And, FYI, food’s kind of important.

Thankfully, the answer to that problem came in the form of a bottle. I stumbled upon a Motherboard’s videoSoylent: How I Stopped Eating for 30 Days”

See those bottles there?

Those were my breakfast and dinner for four months straight. Most lunches (at least those not from a nearby taco truck) came mostly free thanks to 500 startups for providing free snacks and lunches.

Welcome to my life

That was my life for four months. Living, working, and commuting in an RV. Showering and exercising in a gym. Eating half my meals out of a bottle, and getting the rest delivered.

So all things said and done, I’ll be leaving Silicon Valley about ~$4,000 richer.

Here’s the final breakdown:

  • Food: $450 (via Soylent, 500 startups free food and various taco trucks)
  • Lodging: $0.00(thanks, 1998 Dodge Pleasure Way!)
  • Fuel: $350
  • RV: $10,000.00
  • RV resale value: $15,000.00
  • Parking ticket: $80.00 (hey, I consider one parking ticket in a 4-month Silicon Valley stay a success)

The next chapter

Today, I’m still touring Silicon Valley in my trusty RV; hustling harder than ever. 500 Startups’ batch 17 has been an experience of incredible value and, thanks to them (and a lot of hard work), my team and I are on the path to 1M users by the end of the year.

It’s been a hell of a ride, and I know it’s only the beginning. In the end, I hope to return the value 500 Startups has given me 1000X.

Alright, that’s my Silicon Valley survival story. Think you’ve got one to top it? Head down to the comments below and share your experience. Oh, and, by the way … Need an RV?

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