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Tanking the YC interview, some lessons learned (naivehack.com)
188 points by vantran on Apr 25, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

What a great and honest post. Thank you for that.

As for your company, it looks like an innovative and amazing idea. I, for one, would be a customer. Please nail San Francisco and then expand to my city.

It's great to read that you've decided to keep going. A lot of companies rejected by YC have went on successfully; some have even re-applied several times before getting in. (I remember reading about a company in the most recent one applying six times?)

So don't despair. Please don't give up. Chalk it up as a learning experience and keep going forward. Good luck! Hope to hear back from you guys through a post detailing your future success.

"A lot of companies rejected by YC have went on successfully; some have even re-applied several times before getting in."

I applied with someone who is widely recognized as one of the smartest tech folks on HN. We got rejected. A couple years later I reapplied and got accepted as a non-technical single founder.

In two years I went from getting shot down despite having a dream team on paper, to getting accepted despite setting off basically every 'badness' flag on the app. It's kind of a long story as to why, but the point is that things change fast in startup land, that's why we do them in the first place.

>...got accepted as a non-technical single founder.

That's interesting. I didn't know YC had funded a non-technical single founder before.

I wonder how many non-technical single founders it's funded to-date.

>It's kind of a long story as to why

Would love to hear that story.

Also, what startup did you get in with?

"Would love to hear that story."

I just wrote up the story as a blog post:


>> It's kind of a long story as to why,

I'm also interested in this story.

This is one case where not seeing vote counts encourages me to write a comment that doesn't add value. Voting up the other 2 replies wouldn't be that useful. Would it?

I'm also interested in the long story :)

I guess it is the business project that made the difference and eventually how well it was thought and prepared. The goal should be the business not to be accepted by YC ;)

>"it looks like an innovative and amazing idea..."

What a different perspective you get living in Silicon Valley. I personally know the founders of half a dozen competitors to Munchery in the same geographical area, and there are probably dozens of serious competitors that I don't know about.

I don't envy startups in that space. It is too sexy; it has the "actor/rockstar" curse. There are too many founders jumping in because they love it and it's fun without thinking carefully about how to build an audience and get traction. Many of them have damn impressive teams, too.

On the other hand if there are that many companies coming up with the idea independently, then maybe it is the "right time" for it and a few will be successful. But from an investor's perspective I don't understand how you pick which one to fund.

You have to fund the one with the right vision for the web service - which should be flexible enough to compete with the couch-surfer guys, groupon, and whatever else on a whim.

For instance - if you're selling meals for $20+, then also sell wine storage (maybe like vinfolio, but not so overtly pretentious).

There are some pretty clear growth strategies, I think.

(but fix the name)


I would love to treat our staff to a quality chef cooked lunch in the office every Friday for a reasonable price.

Hopefully you'll make it as far as Sydney.


(Van didn't link to his company in the post, so here it is)

I agree. I really like the idea. I'm already ordering some prepared meals from a caterer every week for my family and it's great.

I love your idea, this is a personal pain point I have been trying to solve. I am a busy successful startup founder who eats crap takeout food constantly but would pay a premium for a quality personal chef service that could be easily managed and customized. I have worked with several chef services in the past but the lack of web based system to manage it made it too cumbersome.

Please continue forward and make this successful so I can be a customer.

I was rejected by YC once as well (round one in 05!). But moved forward and we have 'made it'.

Feel free to drop me a line if you want to chat as your idea is something I have spent some time thinking about (and I have some personal chef connections in Philadelphia who might be willing to pilot it!). Check my profile for contact info

Fuck 'em.

Product looks great. Would love more specific service regions that "bay area" -- would love to see who will actually cover my town.

I suspect the market for this is way bigger than people realize. Especially if you include non-chefs. I will be checking back.

I agree. I think there are quite a few non-chefs that would love to do this. I ran into a semi-retired couple that are running a restaurant in SF and they sell freshly cooked food at a great price. And I don't think they would have been considered chefs prior to this.

On the flip side as a user I'd love to get "home cooked" local meals where I feel like I'm dealing directly with the chef.

PS: Don't take the rejection too hard. We took a couple and its not the end of the world.

Word. Food is a tougher than a lot of other p2p marketplace ideas because of legal FUD.

I am very excited to use Munchery in Portland. Food delivery in general is good in Portland (in terms of selection), but stops early (10PM).

A tweak on this idea is Housefed (http://housefed.com). (Which rather than target professional chefs on the producer side, targets normal folks, and is a bit more social than transactional.)

(Full disclosure: Housefed founder Emile is a buddy.)

SF's recent urban agriculture law (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/20/... making it legal for you to sell things you grow in your garden) makes me feel hopeful that the government will generally ease up on making these p2p relationships easier. I see so many rad food startups stepping very gingerly into the marketplace + am rooting for the all.

Its been said by other commentators, but I think this was a super honest and candid post. It read as if was truly written from the heart. This is the kind of tech writing that I like reading. Basically as if I sat down with this guy and he just opened up his heart and soul.

A bit of friendly advice: you didn't link to Munchery at all in that article. The first time you mention it, it should be a link. :)

Also worth noting that the Munchery page contains no way for other chefs to join.

Also the praise on the landing page ``I would say I will probably order again from them'' by an anonymous beta user makes the service seem pretty mediocre compared to the other quotes.

But I love the idea of it. I'm just north of SF (mill valley)---so close yet so far!

If Munchery continues to expand I could definitely see myself ordering from it.

The idea is awesome but when I looked at your site, I was confused. I checked out Chef Indrajit Ghosh since I actually had a craving for Indian food tonight. When I went to his profile, he's listed under Little Delhi (my favorite Indian restaurant for delivery). Does this mean that I'm actually ordering from the restaurant?

Yes. We like hip chefs who can cook great food and who happen to run restaurants. Notice how you wrote that Little Delhi is your favorite Indian restaurant for delivery! :)

Edit: chefs create custom meal menus on Munchery.

I got rejected by YC in a similar fashion. They will grill you hard if they have any doubts about the idea/founders. It was definitely an ego-bruising moment for my cofounder and I, but we are both alive and kicking.

I really enjoyed reading this post. Keep on keeping on and DO NOT stop working on this idea. I know I'd be a paying customer right now if you had a site up.

This is probably the best YC interview post I've read.

I really appreciated there was no tone of, "I got rejected by YC, now I need to prove I'm better than YC"; that's irrelevant. Its very matter of fact, poignant, and very representative of how YC interviews play out.

I didn't feel too bummed about the reject. I feel like we didn't get in because: a) we are not first to market (it was immediately pointed out that there are many like us as soon as we sat down), and b) we are more of a service-oriented company instead of a product company. There are always exceptions, but investors typically want to fund product companies.

Because there are similar companies in this space, we need some unique insight in order to stand out (and our explanation on how we plan to give complete flexibility, or "leave it to the chef," apparently weren't convincing).

It's amazing how we picked ourselves up that very same night, had great discussions, revised our approach based on great feedback from other YC founders we met earlier in the day, and are moving forward. Thank you for all your support!

Forgive my inexperienced question:

Is this something you could take to Kickstarter?

I have seen some absolutely innovative projects such as yours appear on Kickstarter, but I have no insight into whether it is a good idea for both parties.

In short, I guess I would ask: is YC the only path to greatness?

Now this idea seems very interesting. Don't forget that there are other incubators, and if you are feeling bold, you can pitch directly to Angel List. I've made some comments on the subject in the past:



(which is a comment of this great post http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2178339)

And, with that post, you had a chance to explain it to PG a third time (Application + Interview + Blog) :) Good idea.

I'm intrigued by the concept (food is important to me and your business has synergies with http://letslunch.com). How does the logistics of delivering quality, unique meals, work?

What would worry me is that cheap chefs will just list their restaurant menus, and then you truly end up with waiters on wheels.

I'd love to see a vetting process for this. Either:

1. Approve new chefs. Meaning "chefs" that are just restaurant menus aren't allowed in.

2. Allow both in. Highlight the actual Chefs.

3. Just have different sections of the site, one for actual restaurants and one for Chefs. Highlight actual chefs?

Just a couple of ideas that came to mind.

We are vetting each chef profile, and applying Apple's infamous closed-door approach in an attempt to raise the bar on quality. There will be other features coming up that would give quality chefs much higher visibility than others.

Thanks for being so candid. I'm sure this is going to help a lot of the interviewees in the coming days.

Sounds like a great idea, seems odd that the interviewers would play gotcha ("But you don’t expand your funnel unless you got your conversion rate nailed.") rather than steer the conversation to the big ideas. Weird.

I know this article is more about interviewing than the business idea, but I have say that I like the idea.

When I'm busy, I'll sign up for a couple weeks of healthy meals (think mint quinoa, raw kale, and 6 oz of grilled buffalo - yum) to be cooked and delivered by a friend of mine. I can choose home or office on the fly. The only thing missing is some web infrastructure -- and that could really be a huge source of value for the business.

Munchery sounds like a bad name to me, but the good idea is pretty good and has a bigger market than you might think. Best of luck.

There's also YC Reject. We are currently accepting late applications at http://www.ycreject.com/p/apply-to-ycr.html

The main point I took away from this post after some thought marination is that if you have limited time, focus hard on a predetermined plan, and don't let anything derail you from telling your story. Having experienced short timeline conversations myself where you need to get in and out really fast, it's advice that I think is important but admittedly hard to follow without extensive practice.

Wow, thank you everyone for the incredible responses and support. I'm really glad people found the post useful.

I didn't link to Munchery because I intended to write something to help future interviewees, not to promote the company. But it's really encouraging that people seem to like the idea :)

Hi, this is great and I'm already recommending busy friends to it who like to eat properly but time is limited. A big problem on the site for us is that we are all over the city, can you browse by delivery location? It would save a lot of time when choosing a chef.

Page won't load :p - nevermind, got it after a handful of attempts

At this time it's number 1 on the first page. You can view it via Google cache if it won't load for you.

I love your damn idea, I would buy into it. I know what its like to be busy and come home with a burger and fries everyday. If I could use that service I would love it!

I think its dumb to have nail one city then move forward, with certain things you can have a few in each city and keep growing. I never understood the one city at a time, its 2011 and we have the internet. lol Keep up the good idea.

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