Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Startup School: Every Company That Applied Is Now Accepted (ycombinator.com)
585 points by runesoerensen 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 292 comments

Man, credit where credit is due, this showed a lot of integrity. There was one good solution, it was just a painful one, yet they still did it. Well done YCombinator!

P.S. They make the point that this is an experiment, and I think all of us who join should prove that it is a good one. Nobody rails against applications and qualifying scores like HN peeps (check the comments of any article, ever, about SAT/GMAT/GRE scores for evidence). And since YC choose to go the universal route, standing strong to the HN ethos, I think we can prove that decisions like this do work for the best by being focused, engaged, and building some kickass tech companies.

Agreed. Let's prove to them we can do this.

I disagree. They didn’t do anything except open up the grant application part to everyone (no cost to them) and promise everybody that they would get some credits (probably no cost to them). The course was always able to be audited.

What this really does is make clear the desire of the people at ycombinator to open their pre screening program (which is what startup school is, essentially) to more startups. The value to them is clear - they now get more companies that have an initial touchpoint with ycombinator, and they can maybe make money off them or whatever. But they don’t have to scale the thing that was most useful about startup school - that is, the advisors and small groups. For ycombinator this actually is a win win - they can now phase out advisors next round if this is a success and then the course would be very simple to run (and mostly free to create!).

The value that they were really providing (advisors, small groups) doesn’t scale for a free program, and with this new method of acceptance they aren’t offering that value to the newly “accepted” startups. For me personally, If I wanted to independently learn the things they teach in startup school, I already had the ability to watch last years lectures and read last years course material.

If there are credits, that will be valuable I suppose. But, again, I want to emphasize that ycombinator isn’t giving startups anything of real value here that it wasn’t already giving away (except, I guess, the ability to save face if you had already excitedly told friends that you were in this program).

Hi, I was involved in the decision to open Startup School to all applicants and am the developer primarily responsible for writing the software we’ll need to make this scale. We're all planning on working overtime for the next 12 weeks as we prepare for and go through the course. Although we don't have the resources to assign an advisor to every group, we do want to provide human attention to every single company we've accepted.

In general, we're committed to making Startup School an excellent experience for all 15,000 of the companies that applied. This is going to be a great deal of effort for all involved, but it's a point we wanted to get to anyway (even though the timing and communication that lead to this decision was a terrible mistake that we're still really sorry for).

Thanks for your time and commitment. I'm not even an applicant, but it is still quite an admirable thing.

Thank you, as someone that has been on the other end of snafus like this, I know owning up and opening the program to an additional 11K people is not easy.

KCorbitt, thanks to you and the team, I was really impressed with how this was handled.

Cheers kcorbitt!

Agreed. I was excited by the prospect of being a part of a network of other vetted founders.

If they're letting literally anyone in, it's no more useful than every other founders mastermind group on FB.

Huge misfire by YC. Startup School had the chance to be a wonderful network of promising early stage companies - not only that, you've alienated a lot of the promising companies who were properly accepted.

YC simply does not have the stomach to deal with even an ounce of bad press, and it showed today. I would be very wary as a promising company to jump on board with an organization that will probably throw you under the bus rather than go through the fire with you if ever your company, for whatever reason, incites a mob.

I will no longer be applying to the YC accelerator, and from my conversations with other great founders, I'm not the only one.

> If they're letting literally anyone in, it's no more useful than every other founders mastermind group on FB.

We made a major mistake with the admissions emails – which I still feel terribly about. However, while that mistake moved up our timeline drastically, a more open process was directionally the way we were going with Startup School anyway. In fact, the first iteration of Startup School we ran a few years ago was intended to be open to all applicants. We had so much interest that we had to cap the number of accepted companies to the number we had projected would apply, to ensure our infrastructure and organizational ability could handle everyone.

For the Startup School founders forum, we'll be building in extra moderation features before the course launches next week to ensure we don't get into a tragedy of the commons situation. We'll keep iterating on the community management to ensure the quality of discourse remains high, and relevant to the very best companies (luckily we have in-house expertise we can lean on in the form of the incredible HN team!).

It's true that accepting all applicants will decrease the value of Startup School as a credential. But credentialing was never our intention. Our goal with Startup School is to improve the long-term chances of survival for every participating startup, and we believe that we'll be able to do a great job of that, even with the limitations imposed by serving 15,000 companies with a finite number of resources.

What about the people who should have been rejected? Surely, with so many companies there are companies where rejecting them was a service. Now they are instead getting that validation which might make them go on working on something obviously fruitless. It might not even be their own fault, it might just be that no one in YC is really excited about working with them and you can't offer much else which you should be up front about. It is of course admirable that you want to make things work, but I definitely wouldn't underestimate the challenge of transforming your whole process retroactively.

You might be right that this is true for some startups. But it's also true that there are other startups that will keep going regardless of whether they get rejected by Startup School or YC proper.

As a founder of a startup that would have been rejected, I'm looking forward to getting the most I can out of Startup School.

Yeah, I’m sorry to say it but I agree with what some other people have been posting.

I would have been excited to be part of a pre-vetted community. Will there be a separate space for the people on the advisor track to be able to communicate and form a community?

Letting everyone in makes it feel like YC is going from “Harvard” to “Khan Academy.” Both are noble endeavors, but completely different brands.

And to your point, it was never about credentialing. It’s about the network. Isn’t one of YC’s main selling points the YC network? (This is repeated in YC branding.) Now people are comparing it to those Facebook entrepreneur groups that everyone can join.

Feels like some serious damage has been done to the YC brand.

> Agreed. I was excited by the prospect of being a part of a network of other vetted founders.

I feel compelled to say this. I am one of the founders who got an initial reject followed by an accept email. I read the accept email and felt good (I had not even read the reject email). When I learned that YC has accepted everyone, I felt better. Sure having access to a dedicated advisor has an advantage. The advisor can guide you and all that but it's ultimately your hustle. Now the playing ground is more or less levelled when it comes to hustle.

Also, how does this 'part of a vetted group' feeling help in your startup's success ? Agreed, it's a momentary boost in confidence, but beyond that I'm not sure how the vetting process adds any value. The way I see it, the vetting is more or less random.

Does this happen to people who were intentionally accepted, or accidentally accepted?

(Seems to me I got the same emails as you: First a reject email: "Class Begins Next Week! (for visitors/auditors)" and about being an auditor = not accepted. Then I got an email "you were actually supposed to receive the email below accepting you into the Startup School Advisor Track". I never got the "we screwed up and sent acceptances to companies that were not actually accepted to Startup School" email)

There are so many wantrepreneurs and "founder networking" types that suck up valuable time. I'd hoped that YC had filtered those out and that accepted companies could assume their peers are as serious as they are.

after careful thinking, I decided applying was not worth the time I could invest in improving the product.

now that everyone gets a trophy, I am glad I dodged the bullet


Welcome to the new society - participation ribbons for all!

and please grab your complementary juicero and blood test robot on your way out. Point being... if VCs can't filter these out then why have a filter at all?

>> I'm not sure how the vetting process adds any value

What? The entire point of vetting is to increase the quality of the remaining pool. You can argue how successful they are at doing this, but the intent of the process is pretty clear.

>> The way I see it, the vetting is more or less random.

Don't let YC or anybody else define you, but if you'd got in initially I bet you'd take it as a positive signal data point.

I was one of those accepted then rejected. Beforehand they announced that everyone had now been accepted, they offered to provide feedback to the rejected applicants which I received. The reasons my application was rejected was I was a single cofounder and was not working on my startup full time - yet. I can’t afford to do so as I look after my family here and overseas. So this vetting process although understandable does not always necessarily mean people who were rejected had shit ideas or that yours was more superior. This is a startup school. The point is to guide even so called startups who “don’t have their shit together” to a place where they do. As a single founder, I appreciate being part of a community that will give me ideas, feedback and guidance so I’m obviously happy about YCs decision Best wishes

> I was excited by the prospect of being a part of a network of other vetted founders.

I mean, that's what YC is supposed to be. Startup school is an effort to bring YC to more people, which obviously is going to involve less vetting. How hard can you vet early age startups that answered 3 questions with 150 words anyway? You're making it a bigger deal of it than it is.

I get that, but there was still some form of vetting - enough to disqualify 2/3 of candidates.

I'm not making a big deal out of it. Quite the contrary - I don't care about Startup School anymore, whereas I did before.

Note to anyone reading this: please build a mastermind group that requires an MRR of at least $15k. I'd pay good money to be a part of that.

I get that, but there was still some form of vetting - enough to disqualify 2/3 of candidates.

But that's just the thing... nobody actually knows if that level of vetting is meaningful... it may perform no better than chance in terms of identifying "good" startups (however you define that). This experiment will actually be very interesting exactly in that it will help YC see if their vetting IS as good as they think it is.

please build a mastermind group that requires an MRR of at least $15k. I'd pay good money to be a part of that

Sure, having a $15K MRR shows something about a company, but why do you think that is the best criteria to identify founders/companies to network with?

Having $15k MRR means you actually are a company. What value am I going to get from people who haven't even gotten to that point yet?

It's a pretty good barometer for success - 99% of founders don't get to that point.

What value am I going to get from people who haven't even gotten to that point yet?

Who knows? Why do you think only people who have gotten to $15K MRR can offer value?

I agree it's something of a signal, but I'd personally consider that a very weak signal. shrug

You don't see the difference in value between someone who has built a company that's making nearly $200k a year vs someone who hasn't?

In that case, we fundamentally disagree, and this discussion is fruitless.

$200K a year is shit though. Just because somebody can get to that level doesn't mean they're going to tell you anything useful for getting to $500,000,000 / year. That's why I say it is a signal, but it's a very weak signal.

There's also the problem that you don't know the value of the hypothetical "person who hasn't gotten to $15K MRR" yet. If they started their company 2 weeks ago, they probably have an MRR of $0. Does that mean that they have nothing of value to tell you? That depends on a lot of other variables.

Anyway, you're probably right... we probably just have fundamentally differing world-views. I lean towards the "you can learn something for everybody" mindset, and try to late-bind judgment on people's value as advisers until the last possible moment.

MRR is a decent criterion because it means the market is responding favorably to their product (and it's not vaporware).

There’s quite a lot of extra organisational and support work that they will have to do to support another 11,000 people. That’s going to be roughly 450 more groups of 25 people to sort out, four times as many people to still interact with to some extent, and a whole lot more traffic.

When they say “we’ve decided to use our error as a forcing function to find a way to make Startup School work for all founders who applied”, that really is a fair way of describing it. Making this work is possible, but it will be quite a lot more work for them—work they had not reckoned on.

This – Every serious founder already audited last years startup school via the youtube and podcast. The content was amazing but I saw this as a way for us who don't live in the valley to network our way into YC. However, a YC branded forum exclusively for active founders seems valuable so lets see what happens.

> Every serious founder already audited last years startup school via the youtube and podcast.

I didn't. I'd consider myself to be serious, and I'll presume out of 15,000 other companies there exist some more people like me. I don't think you'll be disappointed by the experience.

How valuable can a forum with 15,000 companies (most of which are bad) spamming their services ever offer any real value? If you're lucky to have a good group you might find value, otherwise it's going to be pointless.

I'd encourage seeking out other, smaller founder mastermind groups - you'll get much more value there.

We're going to work hard to moderate the community to prevent that from happening. I think Hacker News itself shows that it is possible to run a large community site that's open to everyone and still keep the content interesting and non-spammy.

Yeah, I suppose it's a fair point that if anyone's going to moderate this properly it's you guys.

Don't mind my negative commentary - I know this was a difficult day for you, and I appreciate the hard decisions that need to be made.

As a founder, though, I have a very hard time finding groups of other founders who have reached a certain level of success and was very excited to be a part of that. It's very difficult finding something like that and I really hope you guys can consider my ideas here.

How valuable can a forum with 15,000 companies (most of which are bad)

How do you know they're bad? And maybe it's the case that having ONE person in your group, who is the "right" person, will actually be what makes the group valuable...

Not saying that will prove to be the case, but I think you're rushing to judgment a bit.

Does that mean you think HN should turn into a private group, and that way get better than it is now?

I'd put a lot more effort and expect far more value out of a private, vetted startup school then I would say, this response.

Please don't post uncivilly here.


It's great for YC. If there's a large amount of negative feedback, they can use the excuse that this was an experiment (and the result of their... high integrity) and revert.


I doubt you're being down-voted for your sentiment, rather, that a one-word dismissal is lazy. Tell us why, preferably without a rhetorical question.

I’m 100% being downvoted for my sentiment. That’s literally all it was.

I have zero opinion on this topic. Downvoted for the lazy one-word response.

Compare to throwmeoutoft11's comment below.


Respectfully, you don’t see any reasons this would be a bad idea?

It's fine to disagree substantively (e.g. like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17807427 did), but not fine to troll the thread like this. Please stop.

Whatup funnynoodles, there definitely are reasons this COULD end up bad, which are pretty much just that YC gets stretched too thin. But, honestly, it could also go super well for them. I mean, accelerators are entirely based on the idea of funding a lot of ideas to cherry pick the few good ones. Well, YC just accidentally created a batch of 15,000 ideas they are associated with, which could potentially provide some crazy successful startups. The downside is they lose money, and maybe some of the cohort are unhappy, though as they've told the later group they wouldn't have the same advisory resources, the program degradation feels fairly minimal.

Experiment - it could go bad, but it could also go good, we'll see.

Respectfully, what are all of the reasons that this would be a bad idea?

username checks out.

Unpopular opinion here.

The value of startupschool (as a previous graduate) is the individual attention we got from a hand selected instructor.

I know yc screwed up with the emails, and their response was to please those that they have misled, accidentally of course. But I think they also devalued the class. It's gonna be much harder to offer the quality attention of the past.

I think the right thing they should have done, which is harder, was for yc to apologize for their mistake and move on. I know it sucked for those who were selected then deselected, but if you are a startup owner you need to be prepared to be rejected, cause someone will reject you.

I don't know what criteria startupschool goes through to select a company, but I think they must have seen something unique in those four thousands.

I do congratulate them for this decision still because obviously the influx of students is gonna be a great challenge to surmount.

I personally think that they've rectified this in a smart way by introducing 2 tracks: the advisor track and a normal one (this is just a guess since I received mail saying I've been accepted to the 'advisor track').

So YC is giving forum access to all the companies that applied but advisor access only to a subset of all the companies that applied. Is that correct?

I don't know. The fair way to handles this would have been to first honour the original deal. They have already put people through the application process and the were going to reject them if this hadn't happened. Instead of "accepting everyone" they should have rejected the ones original being rejected and then asked them forgiveness and confidence in this additional track. Now they have left a lot of people in the awkward position of doubt if they want to do it but without an easy way to say no.

Yeah, same here. Got the email about accepting our startup to the advisory track. My friend got the email about the normal track.

The advisor track email was the email they didn't intend to send referenced in this post, isn't it?

You make a good point about withstanding rejection. But from the discussions that I overheard this afternoon, part of the motivation is that it's what the YC partners wanted to do anyway. That is, it's not only about making people feel better (though we certainly do want that), but also about realizing the original vision. I think Adora is planning to write a blog post about this.

If it works out, then the mistake will turn out to have been more of a catalyst than a mistake, which would be a good outcome. Hopefully people will feel that way in the end.

I felt so bad for whoever made the email mistake. I hope they're feeling alright. It's a bug everyone could see themselves letting slip through.

I checked with him and he's fine, but I think probably also in shock. In case it helps, I haven't seen any signs of blame; everyone knows we could easily have done it ourselves. The general feeling seems to be that it motivated us to do something that we wanted to do in the first place, but thought we couldn't.

Yea, it's a shitty position to be in but it could happen to any of us. Hope he won't be too hard on himself. With that being said, we were one of the originally rejected and then accepted startups. I guess that means we're part of the advisory track. I just hope that YC can still dedicate the originally-intended resources to the advisory group.

Could you please let me know if I am banned? I criticized Sam Altman and since then I get error posting any new story “you are posting too fast”. Thanks.

You're not banned, and we don't ban people for "criticizing Sam Altman". But you have been breaking the HN guidelines badly and when people do that we rate limit their accounts. That's one way we have of trying to stave off the decline of this forum.

We're happy to take rate limits off if people give us reason to believe that they will follow the guidelines in the future. Among other things that requires being civil, which "I love your naive hero worship", "What the F are you smoking", and so on, definitely are not.

The guidelines also ask you to email us instead of posting off-topic moderation questions to threads, especially because it's random whether or not we see them there. Could you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules more carefully from now on?

I intend to help other people and hopefully receive good advice from others who are in the same situation. Why not try to be better than ourselves rather than assume we can't do it because of a factor out of our control (not having input from YC people).

And to be fair, I'm absolutely convinced that we'll still get awesome advice from YC if they see us putting in the effort.

Many companies are still on the advisor track and get that advisor. If you don't find any value without an instructor, then you don't need to participate, but the course material is still there if you want it. Seems like a no-lose to me.

Well technically there is a loss for those on the advisor track.

Because you are now competing with 15K teams for the 100 sponsorship spots instead of 4K. But to be honest I don't think it would make all that much of a difference. The top 100 companies will deserve their spot regardless of the competition.

You already were competing with 15K teams.

They're skipping the step where they eliminate the 11K which the advisor-tier have already beaten once.

This will affect the odds of winning, but by how much?

I guess we're going to find out when we see the final ratio of advised/unadvised startups who win sponsorship.

I think you'll be surprised at how many of the 15k actually complete the course. Asking people to write 3 sentences for the chance to win $10k is really really easy. Following through with months of work to win $10k.... not so much. My guess is probably around the original 4k to maybe 6k will complete the course fully.

We were accepted and frankly I didn't even notice there was a $10K grant. I mean it'd help of course but not much relative to the value I hope we'll get from advising and serious peers.

I kind of agree with you, startups have to fix 'mistakes' fast instead of just making others feel pleased? i.e. the so-called 'fire fast', otherwise it might fail more likely. In that sense, YC probably did a wrong move even though it's labelled as an experiment.

I 100% agree and I know a lot of other people do to.

It makes the whole thing feel like Khan Acedemy or opencourseware. Both great learning resources, but that’s not why a lot of people signed up.

I think this is different, with Khan Academy there's no pressure of ending the course. Here you have a few months and there's an incentive to go and complete the course. I'm not expecting 100% of the people to complete the course, but I do expect better completion rates than Khan Academy or Coursera.

As someone who was critical at first of the way the situation was handled, I have to say that YC has been exemplary in their followup.

The response from all of the YC folks in the threads was respectful and empathetic, and didn't try to make excuses or shift the blame. They just took the heat and acted with honor.

I think we've just learned our first lesson from Startup School: how to handle a bad situation with grace, and recover well.

I am with you. I was really upset as I called my young cofounder to tell her we were in. I felt she needs this way more then me and when I got a reject letter it was a huge letdown.

Anyhow, they offered good save, it will not be easy for them, and they came up with that quickly, before this blew up more.

I think they handled this way better then many CEO's handle their company firedrills.

well said.

I hope somebody runs the data in the future to see if there was a statistical difference in outcomes between the companies intended to be accepted vs. not :-)

Unfortunately there is a huge self selection bias: the majority of applicants would know it is hard to get accepted, so they will have tried really hard to get in.

In the next round if they said they would accept anyone, then presumably there would be a lot of low quality applicants (100's of Facebook clones etc).

This would still be an interesting experiment of YC's ability to choose the best startups out of a much larger set of good ones.

Maybe they find different reasons to select.

They know who they "would" have taken.

And somewhere in the future they know who was successful.

If that are the companies they wanted anyway, all is good.

If not, they can check what was different and what spoke for and against them

The idea is to compare this round of applicants between the ones that were originally accepted and those that were "accidentally" accepted.

That is a good idea! We conducted an inadvertent A/B test :)

Don't forget to share the results with us!

When the BOFH gives you segfaults, make self healing systems???

Is there any chance you can blind yourselves to any extent? Or does everyone involved already know too much about which companies were initially accepted?

any chance you can blind yourselves

I wouldn't worry too much about that angle, personally.

The human mind can follow a community of about 150. This is two orders of magnitude larger.

I think they will be lucky if they can even remember names of folks they are dealing with.

That's what I was thinking!

This would be a seriously missed opportunity for YC if they dont:

Immediately start tracking all the applicants and what stages they are in, how much funding/traction/etc they have and which segment vertical they are in and then seeing how well they all do.

This will be a very interesting experiment.

Yep. We do a little bit of that already with our normal batch applicants, but with the wide net of Startup School there may be more more data available that would be interesting to correlate with long-term success. I think it would be so valuable to have a rigorous study of the factors that correlate with startup success – letting founders know what they should optimize for is an important part of the value we want to provide!

eg. 40% of VCs went to Harvard or Stanford, so therefore if you want to be a VC or know VCs, you should optimize for going to Harvard or Stanford.

/s - because much of the data you'd have on such early stage co's is identity-based, and therefor chock full of bias.

Some of it for sure, but there are a lot of other things to look at. And of course the whole idea of startup school is to try to cast a much wider net, orders of magnitude wider.

Add one order of hopefully serendipitous magnitude. =)

YC has always admirably stretched the scale of vc. This will be an interesting experiment now at this scale--and I'm especially curious how you'll measure progress along the way.

Exactly. They filter for pedigree (and sometimes looks) first. Remember which and why schools used to require photographs with apps? It wasn't just a beauty contest.

How can I get started early in helping with this data?

Serious question. Is there anything I can start doing/capturing that would help?

It would be interesting to write a bot that tracked fundraising event data from Crunchbase for the two groups in this cohort.

Hi everyone! I went through SS last year, and I was going to email them suggesting this exact solution.

Know that trying to decide 1000 out of 15000 startups is incredibly challenging, especially given the fact that the application asks for very little data. So don’t ever think you weren’t meant for this, because it is a school program and everyone has the potential to dominate. This isn’t a zero sum game.

As for startup school, there are two critical things: being accountable and having a support network. Everyone will get those things which is great. I’m not trivializing the role advisors play, but YC noted that everyone will get access to advisors in the forums. Some startups will find them a useful resource for specific problems, but you don’t necessarily need them every single week; indeed some startups waived their five minutes some weeks.

Congratulations! Now let’s get to work! :D

Yep – having a community of peers available to hold you accountable for your progress at regular intervals is huge. And we're going to be working overtime to provide a great Startup School experience for all the participants!

You're certainly showing us what the original Jessica Livingston @YC rule means : no asshole, thank you for being a generous you ! Let's make this shine and inspire more YC alumni to become Advisors for this #epicbatch @startupschool

Totally agree. I am happier with bigger community.

Do they really call it SS? Not to summon Godwin here but historically that wasn't a great organization to be in…

I haven't heard anyone call it that.

Parent comment says it.

Of course, but I meant 'heard' literally.

Great response, cheers!

I can't stay mad at y'all after this response.

I am looking forward to making your application reviewer peeps feel silly after this is all over though. Team 2nd chance has a lot to prove, and I think many of us do really appreciate YC's new commitment to supporting ALL founders at this point, even if it took a mistake to get there.

I was the application reviewer and I look forward to feeling silly :) But really, one of the things I've been thinking about for a long time is how YC can help every startup in the world. We're still not there yet but this pushed us some steps closer.

This is a big move in that direction then.

To me, the biggest thing this announcement signaled is that YC is getting serious about inclusion. As someone from the "wrong" part of the country for technology, I struggle immensely to not feel resentful towards founders and VCs who give preference candidates from their social class, their university, their geographical region.

The whole culture of "founding" and "connections" in general is like nothing I ever had experienced growing up. My parents didn't just "know" lawyers, investors, doctors, researchers, technical experts, we knew teachers and mechanics and middle managers. They barely knew what startups were. How could I have competitively prepared myself for this path when it was essentially invisible to me until I was an adult?

Now I have a CS degree and have proven myself at one of the most intense technical corporations, but I'll still never be as convincing as the person who had parents that encouraged them to apply to Stanford and got admitted, or the person who's family "connections" landed them the opportunity for an investment at a younger age. Or the person who could actually afford to not work part-time or over summers and could do their own projects then and build a portfolio.

The Startup School was supposedly a chance for YC to expand their reach to include people all over the world, but I wonder if the same exact biases around social-class, university, and geographic area were key to the selection of the preferred class.

Regardless, this is indeed huge step forward and on that improves my perspective on YC and tech investment culture in general.

You will still have to attract VCs at some point. I would recommend you leave the baggage behind when you do.

I hear what you are saying, but someone who wants to build their own custom car garage would complain that he didn't grow up around mechanics.

It's relative, and honestly you know nothing about those people who supposedly 'got a head start', when it comes to their health, their personal relationships, or even who they are as people.

Furthermore if you really want to play that game, why not compare yourself to someone from Syria, or Africa and compare 'unfair advantages' then.

This is a really classy reply. Nice job! :)

Team 2nd chance has a lot to prove

Hah! "Team 2nd chance"... love it! We should get t-shirts made with that on them and everything.

You do make a good point though. This is a great chance for a lot of us to show the doubters that they were wrong, and to prove that we do belong.

Ha, you read my mind!

You can forever keep the chip on your shoulder here: https://teamsecondchance.threadless.com/

* Profit (if any) will go to a charity we can decide upon in the thread below. I nominate doctors without borders because they always do good work.

* Help with design is appreciated. I'm just a clueless engineer...

* Should you spend time designing a better version, the thought might occur to you that you are not spending that time on your startup and that might be a reason why you're team 2nd chance... ;-)

What about the #epicbatch instead, for the t-shirts?

Here you go: https://teamsecondchance.threadless.com/designs/epicbatch (this is rather fun actually)

Thanx a lot

Agree- it's up to us to make the most of this opportunity now. I hope YCom get some good data and learning for next years course off the back of it too.

I'm sure some future unicorns from Team 2nd chance will have a super awesome story to tell in 10 years.

Thanks YC (and the bug) for considering to support us. Giving everyone a chance is actually a YC-ish move.



For anyone who hasn't seen the previous thread where this all played out, it's https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17804371.

Thank you for sharing the link.

Startup School Battle Royale. Love it.

Way to handle a really messy, potentially embarrassing situation. I feel for all of the founders that broke good news and then had to break bad. 10x more painful than just saying 'oh well' and moving on. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes one of the best mistakes YC has ever made.

I got a rejected email first and then I got the accepted email with an apology. So I am assuming I was among the originally accepted startups, now since everyone is going to be accepted, the originally accepted startups will have a disadvantage and will we still get an advisor? The thing to rejoice is being accepted out of a pool of competition but now since everyone is accepted, its just something usual.

Does your email say you're accepted to the advisor track? That's how you know if you will be a part of a group that gets an advisor.

Yes, it says I am in the advisor track but now since everyone is in the advisor track, I am expecting it to change?

Not everyone is in the advisor track. About 4000 out of the 15000 are in it—is what some of the comments are saying.

The applicants that were initially erroneously accepted and then rejected are in something like an audit track, except they will have access to the forums and will stand a chance to compete for the $10k (I think).

Hope that clears your doubt. Congrats!

Are you a founder based in India? (just taking a wild guess from your username and time zone activity, asking because I'm from Mumbai, got accepted to the advisor track and would love to connect with my peers from Startup School as well!)

Yes, I am a founder from India also based in Mumbai. I will email you.

Founder from India, got accepted into the advisor track. Hit me up.

Your bio doesn't have any contact info. I've updated mine to include my email address.

Hi guys!

I'm also a founder from advisor track and from India. You can ping me at mail (at) Khandagale dot com

I didn't apply and I've not been selected because I was moving but I would love to connect with everyone here.

Wow! Thanks to YC for this opportunity. The valley is in no way perfect but its these sort of moments that make you excited to be in technology. I'm sure one of the companies that did not make it initially will earn the $10,000 credit.

How can we volunteer to advise groups who didn't get an existing advisor?

Interesting question. Now that the forum is going to be open to all applicants, I guess you (and others like you) can post some information about yourself and how you can help what kind of startups and how many. And then startups can choose whether they'd like you and / or can get you to be their advisor.

I don't believe I have access to the forum - I think you had to apply to startup school... which is why I'm asking YC if they have a plan here for this!

Yeah, it didn't occur to me that you weren't an applicant, sorry. Sounds like something YC or Startup School applicants could do something about.

Although, realistically speaking, YC may not have anything to gain from connecting the rest of the students to outside advisors, keeping in mind that this would require some effort.

This may be something the students will have to do themselves, using the forum as a place to coordinate.

There are 11000/25 = 440 'new-way' accepted groups in, а lot of us want to be advised. :)

I really like this response, I would totally understand if they sent up follows ups "we're really sorry...", but this seems like a really neat response.

I'd be really interested if at the end of the cycle they published the success stats vs. their original invitee success stats. I would expect a lower overall success result - I'm sure there are startups that would never work ("our business model is to just directly give our VC money to our users and profit on scale") they would be denied, but it would be curious how the stats diverged.

e.g. comparing overall performance when controlling for gender, race, religion, field, etc

Hey! Our business model involves just directly giving money to our users. =)

Oof, that seems like a challenge.

I’m not sold on basic income, I think a solid welfare system would in effect be “basic income” for low/no income people, but By essentially having a tapering payout as the recipients earnings increase you resolve a number of issues BI produces.

I do think it’s an interesting idea to have essentially a private fund do a real world experiment, I’m just not sure of the long term feasibility. The problem you have is that the addition of a basic income does not result in any increase in the funds available to you. For a government back system, BI theoretically should result in an over all increase in tax revenue that can then fund said BI, while also reducing the amount spent on poverty related disease, illness, crime, etc. (to be clear I’m not saying poor people are criminals, just that some crime is a result of poverty - theft of food, “crimes” like prostitution, etc).

Anyway, good luck to you fine folk!

I got the rejection email first then acceptance email. Regardless of those emails, I am actually happier now cause everyone is getting in so that this startup community is bigger.

I think it's hard to decide which companies can be in, but I know everyone is working so hard for their startup. So, everyone being accepted is the best outcome I want to see. Good job YC! Looking forward to exchanging ideas and getting advice from everyone!

Do all 15,000 still get AWS / Digital Ocean credits? Or is that only reserved for the 100 selected companies?

We're working hard to renegotiate the credits with the companies offering them. We'll definitely be able to offer some credits to all 15,000 companies but we're not sure exactly which ones yet.

Thank you! I was one of the ones who got the second email, and I really appreciate the integrity YC has shown. Lot of respect for you all.

We have a slack group of people who previously didn't get in but are now in, feel free to join: https://join.slack.com/t/startupschool-rejects/shared_invite...

(I.e those who got accepted, then rejected, and are now accepted again. I.e, Team 2nd chance!)

Gutsy moves starting YC & offering SS to begin with.

Public stumble today—it happens.

Gutsy recovery.


Now it's up to all of us to make the most of it and make it more than it would have been.

Nice save, well done.

Understand that the advisors won't be able to give personal feedback, but I am happy to be discussing ideas / issues / feedback with other peers.

Excited to chat with you there as a fellow peer!

As someone that is now in the Team 2nd Chance, this has been a fun emotional rollercoaster.

Two great lessons can be taken from this experience, first for those that got accepted, then rejected then accepted; dealing with rejection is an essential part of a startup or any business, shit happens and is how to deal with it that makes or breaks companies.

Second, YC just thought a masterclass on how to handle mistakes and how to fail forward. A mistake turned into an opportunity for them and the 11,000 people that got rejected.

Looking forward to be learning side by side with y'all!

There's another lesson in this as well: There's still a group of people who aren't in this class... the people who didn't even apply in the first place. How many people were either too lazy to fill out the application, or thought "we won't get in, why bother", etc, who arguably would now be benefiting from this had they applied?

To me this is a good example of how, while you can't literally "make your own luck", you can make decisions that put you in a position to benefit from fortuitous events. (For the same of argument, let's assume that getting in to SS, even as one of the 15,000+ is still beneficial).

"You have to enter to win" as they say.

or alternatively, thought that the value to be gained from this was lower that the next best use of their time?

10 grands at best, no mentoring - a consulting gig is worth more in money and experience.

A bold and compassionate solution, that only YC would have the guts and integrity to do. Well done.

Thank you so much! I was feeling terrible earlier today and your comment really helped.

Is there a way for companies to tell if they are on the Advisory Track, besides the emails?

That's totally OK, mistakes happen, but I'm not sure what the emails say. If startupschool.org perhaps had the final status (advisory track or not), that would be super helpful.

Very exciting stuff. I hope this experiment is successful and it paves a way towards a completely open model. It seems only logical that any startup should be able to enter the arena and fail or succeed on their actual merit itself, and not some kind of proxy or guess.

This really does seem like one of those magical "listen to your users" moments in a startup's life. Startup School teaching by example and practicing what it preaches.

I was so happy seeing the email of me being accepted to Startup School, but then I saw another email about it being an error, I am a bit sad, but then after reading I'm feeling happy again, than you to YC for giving us an opportunity.

I went to bed after the false acceptance email and had a beautiful sleep! Woke to the kinda bad news and then the acceptance but no advisor email. What a roller coaster!

It's the startup rollercoaster!

I feel like that one of the spirit of YC is try something new, well done. I still have a question, can I join the class on Tuesdays? I mean be a live audience. We're willing to give up $10k, and ask no questions in the class.

There will be an application process open to all SS participants for the in-person class (unfortunately our room has limited seating). We hope that everyone who wants to will be able to attend at least one lecture in person!

That's exciting to hear! I filled out the class attendance application attached to the mistaken acceptance email before the correction was sent -- is that the form you are referring to or will there be a new one?

That form works fine! We're keeping track of all the form responses from both the old and new emails we sent out, so your application made it in.

This is great! I may honestly be even more motivated now to prove YC wrong for initially declining me :-)

Be careful -- If it turns out that those rejected end up with the $10k, YC might start making it a policy of rejecting companies and accepting them on their second application :P

A great way to save the situation. And the resulting community created by 15k startups might lead to interesting directions and developments. I'm looking forward to participating and meeting our peers out there.

I totally agree! I am very excited to see how the community evolves.

This is going to be really, really interesting run! Super pumped!

Nice. Understand this is going to stress the infrastructure pretty severely, but it seems like both A. the right thing to do, and B. an interesting experiment / learning opportunity.

Looking forward to the class.

I've just been catching up on mails at like 2.30am and I also received the initial acceptance and then the decline. I must admit that I didn't take the rejection as personally as some might have. This is a norm in startup life. Whilst I am thankful that everyone was accepted into the program, what would have been of great value to me was understanding why I wasn't accepted, learning from that feedback and applying again. Given the amount of competition in the tech space its nice to know what your shortcomings are. I think perhaps in the next batch there could be some scoring criteria perhaps. I assume that if X amount of people are shortlisted there was some sort of acceptance criteria and someone experienced rated your pitch anyway ? Big up to y combinator for owning up to the mistake made. Many other organizations would have just moved on.

15,000, huh? That’s a lot more than I expected.

How many had you originally accepted? (And thus, how many have advisors?)

We had originally accepted about 4000 - although our goal has always been to make our MOOC as much about "open" as we possibly can. Our own misstep has caused us to accelerate things.

Does that mean you have 160 advisors scheduled for this?

yes, in that neighborhood.

For the lucky ones you will share one adviser with other 24 peers, that's quite a workload for the adviser.

Good luck to all.

Does it mean competition for 100 10k was between 4000 and now 15000?

I'd suspect that there are some pockets within YCs funding resources that will open up to this experiment.

It would be foolish for the tech industry as a whole to not take significant raised eyebrows at what can come out of this.

Surely there will be some "holy crap we couldnt have predicted this to happen" moment in store for the world to see now...

Could you explain what happened more?

4,000 companies were accepted but 11,000 received acceptance emails?

Yes, and the 4,000 received rejections. It was a big boolean fuckup.

Cornell University did a similar thing one year, needless to say, they did not resolve it the same way.

While Cornell was the first big example in 2003, it's been done many times since:


It actually happens dozens of times per year on a one-off basis, usually with college coaches telling recruits they've been accepted when the admissions office has only provisionally accepted them.

SUNY Buffalo seems to have held the previous record of 5109. https://www.cnn.com/2016/04/18/us/us-university-buffalo-acce...

hahahaha that really sucks. Well, I think its gonna be an interesting outcome. Im excited to particpate and see what happens.

Wild Speculation: typo in a limit clause. Probably only a few extra thousand got accepted but instead of weed them out they figured fuck it.

I'm going to also guess and say user accounts were created in a not easily rolled back way after the fact.

Actually, we just literally reversed the SQL queries for the emails we sent out for accepted/rejected companies – and then didn't immediately realize our mistake.

It's been a pretty tough day here at YC but we're all really happy with the final decision we came to!

Looks like you do mailing old (hackers) way - via SQL queries :)

Yes, that's about right. Companies which were intended to be placed in an audit-only track were accepted.

1. Is it possible to find out why a startup was (initially) placed in the audit track?

2. Does this mean all startups will get access to benefits such as DO, AWS? And the chance to win $10k?

Rollercoaster of emotions, but thanks to the YC team for handling this well!

Yep, everyone will be eligible for the $10K equity free grant (on an equal playing field).

We're talking to our partner companies and working hard on securing access to credits for all 15,000 companies. You'll definitely get a lot of credits and we're going to make it as close to the original list as we can.

Thanks for the second chance. Will be cool to be able to connect with other founders and access the private community forum.

For Russian speaking attendees, we made Telegram channel. Please join if you want to share your progress and enthusiasm: https://t.me/joinchat/ATOCuBDWgp3s7S7y7rOQrw

RUS: Мы создали канал в Телеграме для общения и обмена опытом среди русскоязычных слушателей курса. Добавляйтесь и приглашайте своих друзей https://t.me/joinchat/ATOCuBDWgp3s7S7y7rOQrw

this link isn't working, maybe there is some typo in the id?

Those who registered for the audit track only, did you get any confirmation mail? I seem to not have got any and am unable to sign-in. I wanted to change to advisor track later but was already late - there was a "Get content updates" button/form which I duely filled, but still no email.

Is there no login for audit track? Will the content be shared later for all? Is there any use of signing up for audit track?

I thought what happened earlier was pretty shitty - this is 100% the right action to take and totally above & beyond. Congratulations to all startups who applied and get to move forward!

This is fantastic. It would be great if there could be a way for teams to 'level up' and get access to an advisor + the AWS / Stripe credits. Is that possible @yc ?

This would be awesome, especially after reading the numbers. Apparently, 15,000 applied and YC was going to take in about 4,000 companies. That's roughly 1/3 of applicants; if you factor in that I'm sure quite a few of the companies that would have been denied in the first place might not participate anyway then I'm sure this is probably doable.

We have a limited number of advisors but YC partners/staff will be on the forum to help out in any way we can.

As some of the 'accepted' companies with advisors quit / drop out and spots open up, could those spots be filled with promising companies who don't have advisors?

That's a great idea. We'll definitely consider that.

Awesome, thanks :)

Aren't the partners that provided exclusive discounts going to be upset about this? Seems to be fueling the extreme frugal ideology that hosting is an entitlement and free. Reminders me of tee-ball everybody gets a participation trophy, yet in the real world of business it does not work like that.

> EXCLUSIVE DEALS Cut startup costs and get discounts from the best in the business (Stripe, Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and more).

Presumably the benefit they get from providing discounts to 4k companies will apply as much or more with 15k? It remains to be seen if they'll go for it, but people here are going to try.

The participation trophy analogy doesn't really hold because being open to all startups was what the original planners of Startup School (including pg, Sam, and others) really wanted to do. This forced things back in that direction, which hopefully we'll all be grateful for in the end.


I wish I applied :(, any chance for me to get all the course materials?

I applied almost as a joke because I knew I wouldn't be accepted... I'm a single founder, no traction, and a silly, seamingly pointless product. Also I have a full-time job.

Now I'm excited I get a chance to be in a network, compete, and see how peers are handling things on the forums. It's going to be awesome and an excellent motivator. Thanks YC!

Is there a mail list or something to get notifications when it's ready?

Would love to see this. Seen many of the https://startupclass.samaltman.com videos

I received a rejection mail at 02:15am IST and then an acceptance mail (saying I should've received it in the first place) around 2 hours later for the 'advisor track'.

Making me wonder how many tracks are there? And what's the difference between them? There seems to be no mention about the track in this blog post.

Hey guys - this is awesome and compassionate; thank you

Thank you for giving us another chance. We're truly sorry for all the trouble this caused.

I truly think that YC is going to be surprised by the entrepreneurs in this group.

The Un-Snappening has occurred

Dang this is really cool! This is an act of faith on YC's part - they believe in us. If nothing else, I think this is a great culture-shaping move that should help bring what makes Silicon Valley special out into the rest of the world.

"FUCK IT! WE'LL DO IT LIVE!" In all seriousness, great decision. Well done YC.

Classic "It's not a bug, it's a feature" scenario :) Amazing move, SS!

I initially received the rejection letter, to be followed with the letter of acceptance. Good to know that the letter of acceptance wasn't a comforting reward! The startup I've applied with is not the one same as my username.

Nice job guys, totally the right call.

Is this the beginning of a fully crowd sourced Y Combinator?

We're definitely experimenting with different ways of opening YC's benefits up to a larger group of companies. Startup School is one initiative of many that we're trying.

Y-not Combinator?

I first got the rejected, then acceptance yesterday. For me the feeling is that, hurry up, a lot of works needs to be done to "win" 10k grant since we have so much more "competitions".

Also a network of 15K founders would be very very helpful, especially for the company providing services for small startups like us.

So let us forget about what happened and focus on providing the best product to our customers. Without product and customers, your journey is not started yet.

can we also increase the 100 slots for the 10k grant, to 400 slots?

because it used to be 4000 startups and now it's 15000!

I asked Sam that exact question earlier and he was already working on it. But it's complicated for fiduciary reasons, and not the sort of thing that can be put together in a few hours.

thanks for trying!

excited to see how we are able to connect with other founders. This is something I have wanted for a long time.

Will the course materials also be available to those who did not apply?

Yes! All the videos and content from the course will eventually become public for everyone – we're trying to optimize for maximum impact.

So, can you explain, what is the main difference between 'new-way'-accepted participants and people who even did not apply to Startup School and will be able to watch the videos also?

The more the merrier!

I got accepted last year, and I remember they have a group chat or something, but pretty quiet.

Running your own startup can be lonely, and joining a graveyard group chat doesn't help much. I hope this time is different!

Note: I have joined a couple accelerators, online and offline. By far, Founder Institute has the best comradeship. I think it's bcoz you're still working fulltime, while learning startup with tough weekly assignments that can get you kicked out anytime from the program, creating strong group bonding.

For someone out of the loop, what exactly are in the discount code and the 10K equity free grant? Does everyone get it on the completion of the course or does YC choose a selected few?

Since this is a brand new update to Startup School, we're going to work on figuring out how we can offer discounts/deals to all founders in the program. Stay tuned!

YC chooses a selected group of 100 startups. Time to start studying!

So were all companies that applied accepted onto the Advisor Track? Or are the Advisor Track companies a subset of the 15k companies that applied? If so, what are the numbers like?

We mostly removed the differences between the tracks. Everyone is part of the same community. About 4,000 companies will be explicitly assigned an advisor. The other 11,000 companies won't have a dedicated advisor, but the advisors (and YC employees) will participate in the discussion forums with them. Everything else will be the same.

Got it. Thanks for clearing it up :)

Here is a slack channel I created to keep all interested entrepeneurs connected and share our experiences. Feel free to join here: https://join.slack.com/t/startupschool18/shared_invite/enQtN...

Nice job James Bond-ing the solution. Totally the right call.

Good on yc. Now I’m disappointed that I’m just auditing the course this term as I bet the forums will be a very interesting place with this many teams.

Best of luck to all.

I'm out of the loop. What are the actual costs of advisorless groups? Is it just bandwidth and server costs or are there further services.

Mainly we just didn't build the course's functionality or navigation with that volume of users in mind. We also want to make sure we provide a great experience to everyone, whether their group has an advisor or not. We're going to be working very hard over the next week making sure we're able to do that for everyone.

Thank you.

I only received this email, and no other rejection or acceptance email.

We are deeply sorry, but an error occurred in the software that triggers acceptance emails and you were actually supposed to receive the email below accepting you into the Startup School Advisor Track.

I guess that means, unlike the apparent screwup narrative for others here, we were actually accepted and really did make the cut.

It sounds like it, but it's odd that you didn't receive the prior incorrect email. Have you checked your spam bin?

Yep, not there. Probably GMail's fault not yours, it's been randomly dropping emails recently (have same addresses since 1990s ... heaps of spam .. apparently exceeded daily limits for free GMail tier) so I am in the process of attempting migration to Fastmail. Unfortunately they don't allow Chinese phone numbers to sign up, and their SMS never arrives at my HK number, sigh. Nothing ever easy.

I woke up to check my email. I was accepted, then rejected and then again accepted. Nonetheless, will be looking forward to see you guys.

To send an email. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn something new! Hope this motivates the startups even more.

Startup School lesson one: keep iterating :)

First rule of Startup Club... you DO NOT get accepted to Startup club.

Second rule of Startup Club... you ARE NOW ACCEPTED to Startup Club.

Third rule... if either of these notices from the other two rules affected the trajectory of your startup you are not a true founder. So get to work and stop worrying if someone else approves your startup or not.

Very true :)

The lesson zero: just give it a try and some kind of success you get in any way :)

The email mentions organizing groups by yourself. My initial thought is that a group of startups in the same industry would be the most beneficial but maybe the cross-pollination from a wide-range on industries in a group would yield different viewpoints and better results in the long run.

Any tips on organizing groups?

I applied, but haven't received a rejection or and acceptance email. Does this announcement mean I'm in?

You may be the only person who didn't receive a rollercoaster's worth of emails today. Maybe check with startupschool@ycombinator.com to make sure they got your application?

Sent an email. Thank you.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact