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Ask HN: Is really Y Combinator selection process fair?
11 points by rbargagli 1768 days ago | hide | past | web | 19 comments | favorite
Now there is a new filter: “Alumni will review & filter applications”. In our case, none of the Alumni or Partners viewed our YC W2013 materials including Founders URL, Video How it works and Full beta, all of them with 0 views.

They didn´t care if we were a Founder and a Co-Founder with good serial entrepreneur and execution history; raised 725K for this startup; executed and developed a full “Fintech” platform ready to launch.

Reading more than 200 applications per day could be overwhelming and finding the next Google between more than 2,000 applications is like finding a needle in a haystack but YC definitely needs to improve the selection process. Ideas:

a) Start limiting the number of applications per batch (Honestly I prefer that each batch have a limited number of applications. With that limit, Partners will review each one. Alumni are very smart but they are busy building their own startups and don´t have the experience, vision, to screen apps like the Partners.

b) If you involve Alumni they really need to review all the applications and all the materials. People spent a lot of time on the applications; at least they deserve the right to be reviewed in full and if they reject an application is because they really make a good job reviewing it.

c) Now you can apply even if you don´t have an idea. Also make a different application process for groups that are more advanced like almost ready for launch or launched.

We were only asking for the 10 minutes interview like all other groups. YC means for us: a) The best mentoring, b) Feedback, c) Knowledge and Networking

YC: You have the right to reject any group but please review the applications in full. Anyway we are continuing with or without YC. This is only a friendly note to the great people (Partners & Staff) at YC.

I don't want to sound harsh but if your application read like your message here it's not surprising that you got rejected. Investors want people who are hungry for success, not people who feel entitled to it.

Regarding your actual suggestion, I'm not sure how restricting the number of applicants would help, after all it seems far better to have a first-level filter (i.e. alumni network) than to just impose some arbitrary limit based upon a lottery or a first-come-first-served basis.

YC has commented before that the no-idea applications are essentially an experiment. Historically many YC companies have pivoted significantly over the three months of YC, this naturally carries an implication that the idea doesn't matter as much as good founders, so it seems like a reasonable experiment. There's no a priori reason to assume that teams who have launched are going to be more successful than ones who haven't, they're just at a different stage of their life-cycle.

I believe this is only the second season where they've had no application ideas, so it'll probably take them a couple of years to measure if it works or not, but presumably from the fact they're still doing it the initial indications are positive.

Thank you for your point of view, but again, I am not saying that I am entitled for success. The only thing that I am saying in my humble opinion is that applications should be reviewed in full (Alumni network or Partners, etc.) That is because probably applies in our case, we are really bad with words in our application but watching a video or how it works and full blown beta demo could increase the chances... my 2 cents.

Get better at words. The internet is largely driven by the written word, from social to ads to the sales copy on your website, being good at conveying yourself in writing is important.

I'd really recommend working on your skills or finding someone (either on a permanent or freelance basis) who can bring written skills to the table.

Forget YC, you can't expect your customers to watch your intro video or to test out your product if your written text doesn't convey the value it will deliver.

Unfortunately, very few things are in life are actually "fair". "Fair" is also very relative term. The definition of “fair” means one thing to you, one thing to Y-Combinator and something very different to an applicant who got an interview. There are several hundred people across the world right now who had the wind blown out of their sails like you. While I do not personally know anyone at Y-Combinator, from everything I have read, I imagine this is the best system that they have at the moment and are continually refining it. That being said, like anything man-made, it is not perfect and great entrepreneurs will always fall through the cracks. Prove them wrong and be one of those that fell through the cracks.

I don't mean to be disrespectful but here is my 2 cents:

1. Limiting applications is a really stupid idea. Imagine if all the bad applications filed early and filled the quota.

2. YC decides what best/right for the selection process. None of us have a right to question that. By submitting our application, we are agreeing to this condition implicitly.

3. I am not sure why you consider "watching the videos" as the only form of due diligence to the application. They may have read your application and might have decided just based on that and might have not felt the need to watch the video.

4. "725k raised ..." - I dunno why many startup founders seem to wear "investments" like a "badge of success". I would have sympathized with you if you had instead written - "725k of revenue and dozens of happy customers". Just because someone decided to invest in you, does not mean everyone else has to or that your idea / startup will succeed.

5. "serial entre.... " - why do you need YC? go get what you are worth.

6. "please review applications in full" -- We all sometimes decide to NOT watch a movie, just based on a short 2 minute trailer. There might be no need to read your application in full - you could not grab their attention with whatever little they read.

As I mentioned, I don't mean to be disrespectful - but the tone of your thread is more accusatory than of one respectfully making a suggestion.

All the best!

There's no way for you to know the quality of the applicants who got an interview. Why do you think you're so entitled to an interview? YC doesn't owe you anything. Your suggestions are largely self-serving. There's no way to force alumni or anyone else to spend lots of time on every application, and limiting the number of apps just increases the chance YC will miss out on the next Dropbox.

I am not saying that I deserve an Interview, what I am saying is that ALL applications and materials NEED to be reviewed so they really don´t miss the next DropBox like you say.

All applications are reviewed. In your case, YC was able to decide your company/team isn't a good fit for them just by reading your app, without needing to see a video or demo.

Why should they be forced to spend an hour on every app when they can make a decision in the first few minutes?

It is in the interest of YC to accept/fund applicants with a promising future.


Fair? YC is not some government run charity service. Terms like "fair" or "unfair" don't make sense for describing the selection process.

To be honest, I'm not particularly bummed that our team Contactable (http://becontactable.com) got rejected. If anything - its encouraging us to try to hustle harder, get a prototype to market, obtain paying customers and building a profitable business.

Although I was bummed about not getting through to the next round - I DO NOT feel that I was hard done by. In fact, YC partners clearly thought that there were better businesses to back or a better fit.

... and that's OK. The best thing to do, is to focus more of your energy towards your own startup.

I do not believe any of the processes need to change - if they realise something is broken, YC's partners will adjust accordingly. After all, they are also in business to make money - so if they start picking bad businesses to back, then they will change their application process accordingly.

Life's never fair, so just get over it and hustler harder!

YC became a very good brand that attracts best startups all over the world. I believe, you could make good make good portfolio from rejected companies. It could be good market for crowdfunding.

Problem is that not many investors have sellection skill and experience that YC or some other industry leaders have. That's why investors prefer to follow, 'lemming role' is safer and psychologically more comfortable. Difficult to fing reason to be the first investor in the pool.

What would help for everybody in ecosystem - more transparency in YCombinator selection process. Min Scoretable - team score, market score, product score, stage. Startups could opt-out from public scoretable while applying.

This will become point of reference for other investors and crowdfunding platforms and valuable feedback for entrepreneurs. YC as industry leader could bring this public good to the table.

Our application didn't receive any hits either. I think they focus more on the people then the app. For example: how long have you guys worked together? How many times applied? I think the question about "hacking the world" plays a big part. As every founder knows, the application changes so much during development- that it's not really about the idea- it's about the parters. You need to have a history with your partners, you need to balance each other, you need to be creative and "think outside the box"(hacking). Lastly you need to show previous success. If they're investing time, money, credibility into you - they want to see previous success to know you have the right drive and you are a "winner". Just my thoughts. Good luck on your application!

The description raises a question in my mind.

With $725,000 already raised, what does that mean for YC's investment? Does YC's $17,000 only buy 1 or 2 percent ownership? Or do they still get 7% and the earlier investors get screwed?

Some companies may not fit within YC's portfolio.

In my opinion, Fair != equal

Good luck.

Thanks for asking. We have some stocks (Founder stocks + Advisor Stocks) that we will give to YC in case they are interested in us without screwing the angel investors. There are a lot of things that YC adds that money can´t buy and without affecting previous investors.

After a bit more thought, I see a potential "product-market" disconnect.

Rightly or wrongly, YC's template is to invest in people more than companies. While on the one hand, a track record of successfully raising capital makes the team more attractive, having raised a substantial amount prior to applying places the team in a position where they are pitching the company rather than themselves.

A team which has to devote time to placating investors has less energy for product development. In addition, a team with substantial outside investment is less able to pivot, and may therefore present itself as less likely to succeed.

I would add that the tax liability for YC under the proposed stock transaction might be several times their normal investment.

Finally, relocating your current venture to Silicon Valley might provide improved networking opportunities and better access to technical capital.

If reading individual applications take so long then why don't yc implement a good text to speech app on the back end of HN that reads it for them? Problem solved!

Life isn't fair

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