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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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)
now that everyone gets a trophy, I am glad I dodged the bullet
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 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'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.
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?
It's a pretty good barometer for success - 99% of founders don't get to that point.
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
In that case, we fundamentally disagree, and this discussion is fruitless.
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.
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.
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.
I'd encourage seeking out other, smaller founder mastermind groups - you'll get much more value there.
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 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.
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.
Compare to throwmeoutoft11's comment below.
Experiment - it could go bad, but it could also go good, we'll see.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
/s - because much of the data you'd have on such early stage co's is identity-based, and therefor chock full of bias.
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.
Serious question. Is there anything I can start doing/capturing that would help?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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... ;-)
Thanks YC (and the bug) for considering to support us. Giving everyone a chance is actually a YC-ish move.
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.
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!)
I'm also a founder from advisor track and from India. You can ping me at mail (at) Khandagale dot com
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.
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
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 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!
Public stumble today—it happens.
Now it's up to all of us to make the most of it
and make it more than it would have been.
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.
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!
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.
10 grands at best, no mentoring - a consulting gig is worth more in money and experience.
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.
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.
Looking forward to the class.
How many had you originally accepted? (And thus, how many have advisors?)
Good luck to all.
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...
4,000 companies were accepted but 11,000 received acceptance emails?
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.
I'm going to also guess and say user accounts were created in a not easily rolled back way after the fact.
It's been a pretty tough day here at YC but we're all really happy with the final decision we came to!
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!
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.
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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?
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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.
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!
Would love to see this. Seen many of the https://startupclass.samaltman.com videos
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.
Is this the beginning of a fully crowd sourced Y Combinator?
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.
because it used to be 4000 startups and now it's 15000!
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.
Best of luck to all.
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.
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.
Any tips on organizing groups?