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Ask HN: Which successful startups were rejected by YC?
159 points by mrborgen on Mar 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments
And if the founders or anyone in the YC jury read this: what was the reason?



Companies which have publicly disclosed that were rejected by YC and have since raised >$20m:

* Chartboost

* Sendgrid

* LightSail

I've seen it claimed that Couchbase should be on this list, but I've never seen a primary source which verifies that they were rejected from YC.


Is it enough just to raise money from VCs to be "successful"? Many companies still fail even with great funding.


Damien Katz was rejected:

http://damienkatz.net/2006/11/how_not_to_pitc.html

Whether that counts for Couchbase is another question.

(I guess it probably does)


Is there some kind of rule that every startup name has to be of the form NounNoun or VerbNoun?


Verbio and Nounr are a bit old fashioned now.

And it's all ultimately the fault of the limited .com namespace.


Well, ChartBoost is NounVerb, if that makes you feel better.


It could be either way

NounVerb - Boost your charts (increase your metrics) VerbNoun - Chart your boosts (monitor your improvements)


boost is also a noun though


So really, you asking why non adjectives or adverbs?


Tons of made up adverbs -ly: Embedly Summly (remember this artifact of the last bubble?) Referly


I believe SeatGeek would also be in this category


BlockCypher[1] has written about this. I think SnapCard did something similar, though the closest I can find is an article about the laundry service they started[2].

[1] - https://blog.blockcypher.com/what-adam-saw-that-sam-didnt-a0...

[2] - https://pando.com/2013/10/11/superhero-laundry-founders-laun...

EDIT - Citations


> We didn’t get into YC: Sam Altman told us they did not think we could ever inspire Bitcoin developers to build on top of us.

Don't ever let anyone tell you what you can and can't do. Which is to say, make your own way in this world.


What's the use of mentoring then?


To provide another perspective to integrate into your decisions.

Listening to people doesn't mean doing what they say.


Sure, then what's wrong in Sam warning them about something?


Nothing wrong with him warning them, but then there's also nothing wrong with them disregarding his warning. It sounds like they did pretty well regardless.


It's not a warning, it's just a judgement that what they want to do is outside of his expertise and/or interest.


PG offered a good proxy for this a while back. He said if you look at the top companies from other accelerators, most of them probably applied to YC also.


I wonder if investors consider it a negative to be a top company in another accelerator then.

"Did you apply to and get rejected by YC?" must be a common question many investors now ask of companies that aren't YC alumni.


>> ""Did you apply to and get rejected by YC?" must be a common question many investors now ask of companies that aren't YC alumni."

Is this a guess or do you have anything to back it up? It seems really strange to me. An investor shouldn't be judging you based on the judgement of another investor.


>> An investor shouldn't be judging you based on the judgement of another investor.

Hah!

You're right of course, but this happens all. the. time.

Investors and VCs are far from immune to herd mentality.


There is the chance the other investor knows something you don't know, etc. which means it isn't necessarily zero-information.


Rarely. It's mostly a game of "i'm too chicken to make decisions on my own."

VCs love love love the joke of "We're supposed to be all about new unproven dynamic ventures and insight into the future, but we're so risk averse! lol!!!!"


I've absolutely had this happen. Potential VC called us out for not being in YC. Obviously it was not a good fit for either of us!


It's just a guess, which is why I said "must." But it doesn't seem strange to me at all - investors tend to move in herds. They tend to be much more interested in companies that other investors are also interested in. That's why communicating that there's great interest from other investors is key to raising money - it creates FOMO in the investors.


Oh yeah totally agree with the FOMO. I took it more as 'you didn't get into YC - I'm not interested'. In that case letting another investor make your decision for you seems like a pretty easy way to miss out on good companies.


Yeah, and most venture investors are pretty bad at their job - the majority of the industry loses money. But that's irrelevant to startups raising money, because a dollar is a dollar is a dollar.


An investor shouldn't be judging you based on the judgement of another investor.

Why not? Personally, when a company gets into YC, my opinion of that company goes up. Seems like that is just the rational Bayesian-updating thing to do.


> An investor shouldn't be judging you based on the judgement of another investor.

You are of the opinion that this should not be the case, which may be correct. Nonetheless, this happens all the time.


Really? I would have expected social proof to play a significant (maybe not huge, but measurable) part in valuations of companies, no different to valuations of most other things.


Similar questions 1 year ago. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9413204



Here's what I see when I go to that Buffer page:

http://thumbsnap.com/i/nlgq33uo.png?0305

3 signup forms (1 in a modal) for their newsletter (and an additional link to signup for the newsletter at the end of the post).


For context Buffer later got into AngelPad and this was instrumental in the early survival of the company


CleverTap - integrates app analytics and marketing. We were known as WizRocket back then. We now have 1500+ customers, and raised $9.6 M from Accel and Sequoia.


What reason did YC give for your rejection (if you don't mind sharing)? And did you heed their advice or ignore it in order to get to where you are now?


Firstly, the interview process was very good. They asked us some very sharp questions. YC said, the reason for our rejection was that our product would only work for large enterprises having many repeat users (think Amazon etc.). So we went back, thought about it hard, and then rebuilt the solution to make it work for small businesses, startups and even large enterprises. Today our customers spans all three segments.

I even wrote a blog post about our rejection - https://blog.clevertap.com/the-future-looks-bright/


> 1500+ customers

How many of them are paying?


Should be 100%. If not then there is fundamental confusion of what is a User vs Customer


we don't disclose that publicly, but here a link to our pricing page - https://clevertap.com/pricing/


In general what ratio of free/paying customers should be considered good?


Typically for a Saas offering, there's always a free trial, an entry level low-price point plan, or a forever free plan - so the percentage of paying customers could be any where from 10% to 25%. The hope/try is to get the free customers convert to the paid tier as they derive more value from the product over time.


Branch Metrics

They were prepivot (Kindrid Prints) and YC didn't like their idea



My understanding is that a meaningful fraction of YC companies and founders were rejected by YC before acceptance in a later batch.


Friends with a handful of founders that have been rejected by YC - their companies are all doing incredibly well today.


How do you define successful ?.


Not very strict demands. If it's still growing and does exciting stuff, I'm interested in hearing about it. (Though that probably is an insane amount of companies)


Success is a journey that starts with a "?" (question mark) and end with "." (fullstop)


So in Python, success is a regular expression that matches zero or one occurrences any character except newline? I've been doing it wrong!


I'm fairly sure Python would throw an error if you treated that as a regular expression.


That's why to succeed you have to try!


Success is when one remains true to self & others. If we must use Python, then - Any of these is considered False: None, '', [], (), {} and False itself. So, one is bound to achieve success by being truthful to self and others, always create value and make no empty promises and know when to "raise" an exception. Never giving up but knowing when to abandon a bad venture can also be seen as success.

There must be some +ve energy between a startup & an investor. Timing is also everything. Investors can only invest in so many pet food startups. While a pet food startup is making money and is considered a success, that doesn't mean investors have to invest.

Investors sometimes walk away from a B-team founders of a startup no matter how successful the startup really is. A-team with B-plan is always prefered over B-team with A-plan.

Sometimes, Founders decide not take money from investors, if they believe that the investor may only bring money and without any intellect and/or networking.

With that said, the final transaction is not everything.


Failure also starts with a "?" and ends with a "." :-)


Can I get into ycombinator?

No.


Can you give some examples of successful startups, funded by YC or not, that ended with a "." ?


Ann Taylor.


I remember AirBnB's founder said they got rejected by 7 VCs when they started.


Munchery




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