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If all Rejection Letters could be so nice...
96 points by 24pfilms on Nov 1, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments
You guys are a class act..

We're sorry to say we couldn't accept your proposal for funding. Please don't take it personally. The applications we receive get better every funding cycle, and since there's a limit on the number of startups we can interview in person, we had to turn away a lot of genuinely promising groups.

Another reason you shouldn't take this personally is that we know we make lots of mistakes. It's alarming how often the last group to make it over the threshold for interviews ends up being one that we fund. That means there are surely other good groups that fall just below the threshold and that we miss even interviewing.


We're trying to get better at this, but the hard limit on the number of interviews means it's practically certain that groups we rejected will go on to create successful startups. If you do, we'd appreciate it if you'd send us an email telling us about it; we want to learn from our mistakes.

Y Combinator Team

If scoring of YC applications is anything like upvoting/downvoting of HN comments I do not think anyone should link their self-worth to getting rejected.

My impression from talking with various YC partners at the Open House / Startup School was that the ones most qualified to evaluate my application have not seen it. But at the scale YC is operating now this sort of thing seems inevitable.

Moral of the story: never put all eggs in one basket, have Plan B, C, D, E ... ZZZ, preferably around being able to fund yourself with revenue, while still scaling your product business.

Just like us :)

Having plans B, D, E ... ZZZ around is an incredible piece of advice from one who has experienced it. Stay alive, brother.

If you're hungry enough, being rejected may be the best thing that will ever happen to you. Don't let a YC Reject letter stop you from continuing your dream.

I'm possibly rationalizing here, but some of the NOs I've received in my life have led to decisions and outcomes that I know ended up being the better path. So, definitely not something to feel down about, it's a tough YC class to get into.

Anyone who think they got jibbed because of supposedly amazing creds should congratulate YC that the applicant pool is so strong that so many other applicants are at least equal in ability.

Anyway, like Zuck said at Startup School - just go F'ing build it and prove them wrong if you can - it's so damn cheap to put out an MVP these days. I know we will continue our experiments and move methodically through our own process of trying to build a viable business, regardless of YC's opinion. I am pretty sure this is what pg would encourage as well.

"it's practically certain that groups we rejected will go on to create successful startups. If you do, we'd appreciate it if you'd send us an email telling us about it;"

A little like writing to the girl/guy that rejected you with great news that you've landed in Hollywood. By the time you get there they will know it.

Anyway, by "successful" what do they mean anyway?

Someone else funded you? (go to crunchbase).

Or you've gone public?

Or you've sold the business?

Or you're on the front of the WSJ?

Isn't the info they are looking for in all the obvious places? Patronizing to suggest "tell us about your success" as if they can't go to the trouble to uncover it themselves somehow.

Do you know how many of the startups change dramatically or, at minimum, change names (or don't even have one yet)?

After reviewing 2000+ applications, do you really expect them, upon seeing a TechCrunch post 2 years later to remember that was one of their applicants?

You can trust that they really do mean they'd like to know about it, and if I know them, they'd actually go look up the application to see if there is any way they can avoid missing that opportunity in the future.

"that was one of their applicants"

The idea can change but people's names don't change.

"upon seeing a TechCrunch post 2 years later "

The definition of "success" in your mind?

The over 4k applications they see use HN usernames.

You're the one that said CrunchBase.

The idea that they're supposed to monitor for every startup founder they ever rejected to pop up a few years later is retarded.

"they're supposed to monitor for every startup founder they ever rejected to pop up a few years later is retarded."

If they are interested in the information they can get the information as it is out there. So they shouldn't put any effort in? Poor them. So many applicants. So much work to cross reference.

"The over 4k applications they see use HN usernames."

People don't use their real names on applications?

For each founder, please list: YC username; name; age


Well, I had applied to StartupChile and got accepted, but wanted to see how my luck would turn if I applied the same startup to YC. I would of prefered to be in SF with the great mentors and angels, but hey StartupChile give you $40k with no take of equity.

I'm curious what the acceptance rates are for StartupChile.

My impression was that if you were "good", and jumped through all the hoops in filling out the app (which are substantial), you're likely to get in.

With YC, it's probably an easier application, but you're not as likely to get in even if you're good. Good team AND existing traction AND communicate well is about as likely to get into YC as good team alone is to get into something like Startup Chile?

The applications were about the same in terms of details and content required. I work solo so that could of had an effect on my YC "denial".

you applied this session? are the results out? i applied too but didn't receive any email..

I had applied for the previous round. I am heading there in early Jan/2012.

wait, if the people from previous round are going there in jan, when will this round's people go there than?

February 29th or March 28th, 2012

how do you know that? the results aren't even out yet.. :O are you from SC?

January 16/2012

well that's when you (from previous round) are going.. i got an email yesterday from them confirming my submission and saying that the results will be out December 15. So Jan 16 would be a little early imo, for all the visa and paperwork will probably take longer. feb/March sounds more reasonable. :)

Couldn't agree more. Having said that I feel these are taken way too seriously/emotionally and it is important to understand that you can build your own startup to product/market fit, revenue and profitability whether or not you get into YCombinator or other incubators. YC and other incubators are a great help, but should not be considered a ticket to (possible) success.

We need to find our own patterns of success and think outside the YC box.

YC should never be the end of your dream. They're not always right (and they admit it). Keep on trucking along!

A friend of mine who completed YC told me that there was a guy who got rejected 4 or 5 times before getting accepted. Just remember always be positive and keep working hard :)


We got rejected the first time. Same idea, 2nd time, accepted.

We were down on music startups the first time after seeing so many get hosed by record labels. But you guys proved there's a great business model there.

Did he submit a new project each time?

Yes I believe so, that is key.

I applied twice with a previous idea. Rejected once, interviewed and rejected another time.

who was in the interview room with you ?

I remember all of the partners being there.

Don't YC claim to choose teams instead of ideas?

Maybe the change in idea, or the progress, showed the true colors of the team better.

One of the best rejection I've ever gotten.

Since I applying for this round YC, we came up with new amazing idea. I agree that our first time application was poor, it was just an idea without working beta. I'm sure that we should increase our efficiency, it doesn't mean that should work harder. Just more efficiency!

While its a bummer to get this sort of rejection letter, I somehow think that if one of the ones that didn't get in didn't keep moving forward after this - deserve to had not gotten in anyway. This absolutely shouldnt stop you.

How old is that why not link? If they're interviewing 70-80 groups, doesn't that mean that nearly everyone who interviews gets in? I mean, last group was over 60, wasn't it?

During a previous Q&A session the day before Startup School '11, I believe pg mentioned they interviewed ~170 groups the last batch.

The best thing about applying to YC is getting to really think about a lot of great questions in the app, it is win/win regardless of the outcome.

True. Just got mine and just want to work harder.

Totally agree, very classy. And that Why Not link is great. Best rejection I've ever gotten

I'm not sure why people beat themselves up so much for not passing a candidate filter where teams of people select a candidate from a list based on various criteria and instinct. It has been mathematically demonstrated that these processes fail at doing a better job than throwing a dart at a wall containing a list of all the candidates.

When I get a rejection letter for anything, I shrug and treat it like losing a raffle. I don't sweat it, the ticket candidate selection process is not based on merit, it's based on randomness.

Just to remind some people:

- Damien Katz (creator of CouchDB) was also rejected[1]. He went on and got $2 million from Redpoint Ventures [2]

- On this video[3], Jessica Livingston interviews Drew. It shows that he was also rejected the first time he tried out YC.

- The oscar of rejected but finally accepted: I got into YC after applying six times [4]

- Peteris Krumins also got rejected with his browserling idea, got rejected[5], and went on to raise his own seed funding[6].

[1] http://damienkatz.net/2006/11/how_not_to_pitc.html

[2] http://damienkatz.net/2009/12/relaxed_inc.html

[3] http://ycombinator.posterous.com/dropbox-interview-now-onlin...

[4] http://iamwil.posterous.com/i-got-into-yc-after-applying-six...

[5] http://www.catonmat.net/blog/launching-browserling/

[6] http://www.catonmat.net/blog/how-i-raised-money-for-browserl...

...a filter which has been mathematically demonstrated to fail at doing better than random chance at picking good candidates

Where could I read more about this?

Read Joel's epic post here describing the phenomenon: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2005/01/27.html

The 'dead sea effect' is caused by this phenomenon: http://brucefwebster.com/2008/04/11/the-wetware-crisis-the-d...

Hiring managers get the technical competency part right but they completely miss the most important things: work-ethic, tenacity, responsibility, team skills, organizational and planning ability, cultural fit, and decision-making. When you hire based on qualities that have no relevance (as all companies everywhere do), you might as well get some monkeys to throw darts on the wall. it'll speed up the process! http://www.adlerconcepts.com/resources/column/newsletter/ran...

I don't think either of those two blog posts support your point that randomly picking candidates is as good as actively trying to select for good ones. If none of the candidates applying to YC were good enough to pass some minimal threshold, pg and co. just wouldn't take anyone, unlike the horrible companies in your links who will always take what they think is the top 1%.

I think your last sentence doesn't make sense either. Since when did technical competence not count for anything? Both competence and teamwork are necessary, but neither alone is sufficient.

Point is, randomly picking candidates is a crap idea.

Same reason people get frustrated for not getting into the college they wanted to attend. Sometimes, it's nice to win.

Can you post a link or something about the not being able to beat random chance thing?

I can't give you an exact example for recruiting, but it seems like a very similar process in picking stocks. If you can imagine why lessons there might be applicable, you could look up the criticisms about mutual funds/"actively managed" funds vs. broad indices.

In previous YC rejections I've thought to myself "wow if they rejected me they must have recieved some pretty spectacular applications". And then months later when I see the list of companies that did get in I was like "wtf did they really fund a location-based social network for cat fanatics?".

And then you find out that they've managed to get an entire network of cat food distributors on board, and are currently pulling down $50,000 in revenue after having launched the third version of their site a week before applying. Oh, and one of the founders used to be the editor of Cat Fancy.

Sure, some mistakes will get made - but a company's success factors are rarely as simple as their three-word description.

I used to hear the ideas and react the same way. But then I meet the founders and I'm like, ok it makes sense now.

i like your style good sir/maam

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