Featured image source: CBS News
One Friday back in July this year, Jasmine Scofield from Mountain View, California was on her way to a restaurant after getting out from work when she ran into a smart looking man in his 20s at an intersection. There was a glint of hope in the man’s eyes and a pinch of desperation. In his hands was a sign that said: “Homeless, hungry 4 success. Take a Resume.”
A man with a dream
David Cesarez was a web developer based in Austin, Texas. Having a Bachelor’s Degree in Information-Systems Management from Texas A&M University, David worked at General Motors for three years until he decided to risk everything and move to Silicon Valley for a shot at the start-up scene. Just shy of his 26th birthday, David decided to quit his job at General Motors and cashed out around $20,000 from his 401(K) to fund his journey west.
What’s more amazing was that aside from an old iPhone, a dash of hope and his ‘can do’ attitude, was his idea. An app called MESA. He intended the app to give Mom-and-Pop shops the opportunity to scale up and get a bigger piece of the mainstream market. It was inspired by other successful food-centric start-ups like Blue Apron. The idea for the app is quite brilliant but it was the reasoning behind it that makes David more than just a man with a dream. With a pocketful of dreams and some money in his wallet, he set off westward towards Silicon Valley.
Struggles in the Bay Area
It was in September of 2017 when David arrived in the San Francisco Bay area. Dubbed as Silicon Valley, it is one of the world’s premier technology hubs that’s home to giants like Google and Apple. However, it is also considered to have one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. Something a would-be entrepreneur from Texas has to contend with!
An opportunity presented itself to David when he met a possible investor at a networking event. The promising deal fell apart however, due to differences in the potential start-up’s vision. Job interviews weren’t coming his way either and the funds are starting to get used up. It was in this situation that reality started to set in. He concluded that outsiders simply had it rough when it comes to landing a tech-related job in Silicon Valley. His lack of connections certainly made matters even more challenging to the Silicon Valley hopeful.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to the people who ventured to the Bay area hoping to make it in the tech industry. David, however, thought to rectify his current situation by devising a plan that’ll allow him a chance to make a powerful new connection through a very high-profile event.
The iPhone X Plan
The iPhone X has just been announced and made available to the masses. David saw that as an opportunity. For three days, he camped out outside the Apple Store in Palo Alto and was the very first one in line to purchase the $1000 device. The plan was to be in the first batch of customers to get the smartphone and be in touch with Apple executives. No doubt that it was a risky plan but if you think about it, everything makes sense. If you really wanted to reach your goals, one must always have a plan and the courage to take the leap. David knew this and went along.
The plan seemed to have worked as he had the chance to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook who not only provided him with a congratulatory hug but also an opportunity to be interviewed at Apple’s campus. Things seem to be looking up for the 26-year-old tech hopeful but things started falling apart after that.
Rock bottom in Silicon Valley
The job opportunity at Apple ended up with someone who was already employed in the company instead he said. All the other hoped-for interviews never came as well. David decided to take drastic action to save up what he can from his dwindling reserves. He decided to live in his van to save money. He also saved up on food costs by relying more on canned tuna and ramen noodle-cups. He started calculating what he calls a “Burn Rate”, an estimation on how long his funds will last. According to his calculations, he has around six, if not seven more months until he uses up everything he has.
By March 2018, he has barely enough to get by. David started missing out on payments for his van and was even forced to sell the iPhone X he bought from the Apple Event just to survive. He even held on to a Gym Membership card in order to have a place to shower. In early June, his van was repossessed forcing David to live on the streets. The van, according to him, has been extremely helpful. Not only did it provide shelter but gave him the feeling of safety because of it being enclosed.
Now, David sleeps on park benches and stairwells. He started crying a lot and asking how he got to that point. Depression has set in. The journey so far has led him from Austin to rock bottom in Silicon Valley.
Holding on to Hope
The inspiring thing about David was that despite what life has dealt him, David held on to hope. He decided to push on and fight what he calls a “self-created disaster”. “I told myself, ‘I am not going to let this break me’.” he said in an interview with The Star.
Take a Resume
On a fateful day in July, David decided to wear his long-sleeved shirt and slacks. He printed out a good number of resumes and wrote a sign that said: “Homeless, hungry 4 success. Take a Resume.” On an intersection between El Camino and San Antonio Road in Mountain View, he stood holding the sign. He wasn’t asking for money. He was handing out his resumes with the hope that he will finally get noticed and get a job opportunity. It’s obvious that this do-or-die plan which was born from his frustrations and desperations. However, he knew from experience how important it is to take that leap. To take that risk in order to move forward and be one step closer to his dreams.
Jasmine Scofield just got out of work when she serendipitously passed by the same intersection where David stood. Surprisingly, the traffic light turned red and allowed her to interact with David for a bit. Jasmine asked for one of David’s 50 resumes and took a photo of him with the sign. As mentioned by Jasmine in her talk with CBS News: “Do I have your permission to post this on Facebook and Twitter?” She asked while slowly driving off. David said yes.
The photo was posted on social media that night and it has spread like wildfire. The photo has gone viral and by the end of the night reached almost 10,000 shares. This has catapulted David into the limelight. Hundreds of job offers started pouring in. Media outlets have also started reaching out to him hoping to hear more about the man behind the now iconic “Hungry 4 Success” sign. Doors have started opening up for David in the following weeks with opportunities coming from tech titans like Google, Pandora, Netflix, and even offers from overseas.
Jasmine Scofield’s post has also caught the eye of Lambda School CEO Austen Allred. The Lambda School is a Pleasanton Company that trains software engineers at no up-front cost and provides funds for homeless students in its programme. Allred’s past experience with living in his car while trying to make it in Silicon Valley has compelled him to reach out and help David by providing AirBnB gift certificates to get him off the streets as well as mentoring during the interview process.
A brighter future
On August 22, 2018, David Cesarez announced on Twitter that he has finally landed a job as Software Engineer at White Fox Defense. A drone airspace defense company. Jasmine Scofield’s original tweet has reached a total of 137,000 Retweets and 223,000 Likes as of writing. David has finally found a bit more stability following his ordeals. When asked about his start-up dreams, David says he’ll focus on the corporate world for now but will definitely get back to it in the future.
If there’s one thing David and his journey in Silicon Valley is to always hold on to hope no matter what life throws at you. He was a man with a dream, a plan on how to get there and the courage to take the leap of faith. It was a difficult ride but he held on.
“Never give up. If you have a dream, pursue it”, said David in an interview in the Entrepreneur. “Take a risk, because you never know what the end result will be”.