Living with Ivy League Entrepreneurs: 3 Minute Read

by Derek Snook

For the last few months and several more I am living with 16 Ivy League aspiring entrepreneurs in Brooklyn. I sleep on the top bunk in a three bedroom house. The bathroom needs cleaning. We're low on paper towels.

Chad is the founder. He's a 20 year old Cornell student that's developed an impressive business model in 10 months. Bradley is in his mid 20's. The company he started is at one of the world's best incubators. He works with billion dollar family funds who want to invest in cryptocurrency. He graduated from Columbia, where Chelsea is in public policy school. She interns at UNICEF.

Kyle graduated from Yale and is working with a psychiatrist on a prototype for a medical device. Mason writes four thousand words a day, getting up at 5am each morning. He’s writing his sixth sci-fi novel. He shares slide show presentations he made for his frat brothers on productivity. He’s 23. Max interns at NYC's famous prison, Rikers Island. He wears overalls and his hair is longer than Jesus. He bikes to work and has a new road rage story almost every day. His opinions make me wonder if people who don't smoke marijuana are more dangerous than those who do.

I’m the old, washout entrepreneur. I tell exaggerated stories about the days before middle schoolers had Linkedin profiles.

My experience living homeless raised more questions about community than it answered. I've lived in a friend's garage, a Buddhist Monastery in Vietnam, and an island community. I've lived in Cuba with a cardiologist who made $30 a month, a family with five kids, and on a sailboat.

There are no "right" and "wrong" or "perfect" living situations. But there are tradeoffs based around our values. Here are some of the positive trade offs I've found co-living that match mine:

Increased Margin.

Simplicity. The rooms are furnished. I’m the only person with a car. Possessions are minimal. Nobody judges my five shirt rotation (at least to my face). We spend less time shopping and fixing stuff around the house.

Budget. We share rooms so rent is less than average for the area. We have more financial margin to spend more time on our projects.

The neighborhood. Co-living helps meet rising housing demands with less supply. The end result could mitigate gentrification and housing costs for everyone. It may also decrease environmental impact.

Challenging Ideas.

Kyle hated eggplant until Sundeep included it in an traditional Indian dish. Now he kind of likes eggplant.

Max’s ideas are being challenged, too. He says, "African American guards are harshest towards prisoners from their own neighborhoods." He’s creating a survey to better understand.

Co-living is challenging my ideas of how I love others. I’ve started reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.” I told Chelsea about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer--as a Lutheran Priest--was hung for trying to assassinate Hitler. Now she’s interested too.


Vivek Murphy--the former surgeon general--says isolation is the biggest health risk Americans face. Recent research says the mind registers isolation the same way as physical pain. Isolation is being linked to decreasing life expectancy.

The other night, sitting on my top bunk, I concluded I was a total loser with no future.

Jan came in. He told me a long story before finishing with a question. “You know, I saw a Bible on your bed, and I’m wondering, if I want to check it out, where should I start?” By the time I'd made a few recommendations I was kind of happy. I needed to help somebody else to help myself.

Increased interactions multiply chances for encouragement and support. They decrease opportunities for the bad decisions and thoughts that come in isolation. Our human capacity to harm one another is outweighed by our ability to help each other grow.

There are legitimate objections to co-living. Though, for families it could be a great solution for finding a last minute babysitter.

Let’s grind our values against our living arrangements. What do you value most? Do your living arrangements match those values? What could you adjust to be more consistent with your values?

I'll leave you with one more value I have found co-living.

Yesterday, a couple in their early sixties from Michigan gave a quick knock before walking in. They asked for “Jennifer”. I winked at Mason and Chelsea. “Oh, she’s upstairs,” I said. The father had his foot on the top stair before we finally convinced him I was yanking his chain.

"Hey, don't mess with me like that," he kidded me, patting me on the back. He and his wife walked out of 234 Bainbridge in search of 243. “You guys have fun around here, huh?” he asked with a midwestern accent on his way out.

"Yes, we do," I said. "We have fun around here."