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Tell HN: YC rejection emails have started going out
78 points by nicholasreed on Apr 17, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments
Via email:

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.

Unfortunately we can't give you individual feedback about your application. This page explains why:


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

I'm just hoping to give a few people some perpective on such rejections:

- 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://blog.ycombinator.com/dropbox-interview-now-online

[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...

Chartboost got rejected from YC in S11. These days we're at $21M in funding led by Sequoia for Series B and ~55 employees. :)

It's not the end of the world.

Way to go Chartboost.

Oscar of Rejected wasn't exactly on my list of life goals. But I'll take it.

Interviewstreet was rejected twice before applying the third time to get an email asking them to come in for a 10 min interview.

It's not the rejection that bothers me, it will be what they end up accepting that will sting. Don't get me wrong, they have made some great selections in the past, but there were a lot that also seemed very weak. I may have been overconfident simply because of the thought, "Well hell, if they accepted that group, surely we'll be accepted."

This reminds me of days around 11 years back, when I was studying for engineering college entrance exams.

We would have entrance exams for coaching classes which prepared students for main entrance exams, basically the elite coaching institutes would ask candidates undergo a entrance test and pick up only the best.

Many of my friends were rejected, including me. Some were selected. In the end in the main exams we did better than the guys who were selected for the coaching class. It just turns out after we were rejected we were motivated to push ourselves further more than others.

Rejection can do wonders if taken in the right spirit. You basically go into the phase to 'prove something' to not just yourself but every one around.

This is a very well drafted email.

>>Another reason you shouldn't take this personally is that we know we make lots of mistakes.

Says it all. YC companies fail too.

And there are a lot of non-YC companies that win. At the end YC is like the coaching class entrance exam, not the main engineering entrance exam.

Your main test is how and what you do on the ground.

Very well put! Nice! :)

I just want to say that e-mail looks very well-written and comforting for a rejection e-mail. I wish companies sent similar rejection e-mails to job applicants.

Keep your spirits up, rejectees, this is not the end of the world. Continue doing your thing. :)

I wish girls would do the same thing. Imagine how nice the world would be if everyone wrote their rejections this way!

Scariest thing I ever did was ask my wife out for our first date. And I used to be an adrenaline junkie!

"It's not that you're particularly bad."

"You are rejected for undisclosed but mannerly reasons" isn't much more helpful than "no".

Heh.. I think it is much more personal if a girl rejects you, and you need to know why. Tough love, man!

I for one wish companies would give more details to job applicants. I've heard that some companies don't give you any details for fear of (discrimination?!) lawsuits or, as a recruiter once told me, simply paranoia. If someone knows other reasons for this besides not keeping records of the interviews, I'd like to know more.

What's even stranger/funnier is that some companies reject you without giving any specific reasons, yet they invite you to reapply for another position or the same later.

A solution to that might be tests, where the company isn't telling you why you were rejected, but it is obvious from something objective.

I.e. if the process aborts after a certain stage, and the first few stages are fairly transparent tech skill evaluations. If it is something as fuzzy as code on a whiteboard, that is more like a human interview, but something like progressive fizzbuzz could be used as a 1h pre-screen.

If all teammate interviews happen pre lunch, then, and you are told to go home before lunch, then it is the team interviews. I guess then exact reason wouldn't be clear to you, though.

An answer saying "our team doesn't like you" would be fine with me even if more details would be welcome e.g. you didn't get the joke about Lisp. After all, I can't be liked by everyone :-)

Nicest rejection I've had to date

We, Body Boss (http://bodybossfitness.com) didn't even have a product last time year, and we thought just having a good idea was enough for acceptance. In the past year, we've boostrapped like crazy, built a product, launched and acquired plenty of customers to validate our idea.

YC rejection for the 2nd year in a row has done little to dampen our spirits and ambition. Here's to another rejection that motivates us to succeed!

- Proud Rejectee

Congrats on your success--the site looks great! It loads pretty slowly for me though even with a decent connection. I'm in Australia, so that could be a factor, but I see a few quick optimizations you could do.

1 - Some of your images are huge. The ipad workouts image alone is 300kb, which is way too big. Of course you want them to be good quality, but you should be able to cut a lot of weight without any noticeable effect. The Fireworks Export Wizard is a good tool for this.

2 - Some of your images are unnecessarily broken up into lots of separate img tags. The main landing page image with the helmets and devices has over 6 tags. You should combine images in order to have as few img tags as possible. It will reduce http requests and also give the browser less layout work to do.

3 - On a similar note, you have a bunch of small images like the player portraits that you could group into a spritesheet to further reduce requests.

4 - It doesn't seem like you're using a CDN? Something like Cloudfront or Cloudflare is quick to setup and will improve download time for your images drastically, especially for people who are far away from your server like me.

5 - You should put your javascript at the bottom of the body instead of in the head. You're not executing anything until the dom is loaded anyway, and putting at the bottom will allow the page to render before the js is downloaded and parsed, improving perceived load time. Use 'display: none' to initially hide anything that depends on the js to look right.

Just wanted to say that I'm nowhere near your target market but the landing page looks excellent, incredibly polished for less than a year's work. Best of luck to you!

Thank you! It's too bad that you aren't in our target market. :-)

Our progress so far is a huge testament to the skill, execution and resolve of our team (http://bodybossfitness.com/about).

Your site looks nice.

But one thing. Your target market is "coaches and players"

Yet your "about" page is targeted toward either a) getting funded or b) people who are into tech, read HN, etc.

That's a problem. You start of with "Andrew Reifman" who is a "pixel perfectionist". This has nothing to do with anything that your target market (say the coach at my local high school team) would even remotely care about.

The one person "Darren Pottinger" who has some street cred is listed as number two.

I think Darren should be the prominent person on that "about" page with the rest of the team deprecated (smaller type) or even placed on a separate page. Perhaps get some "advisors" that are coaches, players or other users to fill space on that page as well. Give it some meat.

That page to me says "we are looking to build a company" not "we have the expertise to help players and coaches with our product".

If someone wants to invest - your team will matter. But it shouldn't be presented in a way that detracts from the product or service you are offering.

Thanks, larrys. Great feedback, and we've already taken some of your advice to heart.

Cheers, Daryl (Mr. Business of the Body Boss Team)

I agree, impressive landing page. Every application round I see someone as polished as this, and then realize to not take rejection to heart. Rejections, even at YC, will have their fair share of false positives.

Yeah, even bootstrapping, we're still getting great recognition. We even just signed the NFL's Carolina Panthers up for Body Boss!

Wow. Very impressive site.


I'll throw my "rejected from YC" story into the ring: my co-founders and I applied to the S12 batch. We were fortunate to get as far as the interview phase, only to receive a very kind rejecting email from Garry Tan that evening. His basic criticism was: "you guys aren't serious about this idea" (we hadn't yet quit our day jobs).

So we quit. We spent the summer building Meldium, reapplied for W13, and were accepted - and it was an amazing boost to our company. As a founder, you're going to get rejected a lot - use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Context: We sent an application in for S12 and S13.

Interesting that you mentioned "serious." Looking back I don't think I was a whole lot "serious" the last time I applied, but I think my application might have been better (see my comment below - got more video views last year, but that could have been an anomaly).

In any case, I wonder if being in school this time hurts our chances. Most of our founders are graduating, and the rest have signed on to jobs. But we are more serious about it this time around - hacking away on public transit, on campus and pulling all-nighters to get features out.

We've offered this before, and are doing so again, because startups are hard and a YC rejection is but one roadblock you will face (among many).

So, Tinfoil Security is offering our $59 Basic plan free for life, and 50% off all other plans. Happy to keep startups secure :) Email your YC rejection letter to founders@tinfoilsecurity.com and we'll hook you up.

omg!! Thank you very much :)..here comes my email!!

Stay hungry, stay alive, and be relentlessly resourceful (as PG says). You'll figure it out.

A long standing tradition: If you got rejected, please forward your rejection email to free@mixpanel.com and we'll hook you up with a free Mixpanel plan to help out while you're figuring it out.

- Suhail

I love this tradition; and for the first time would like to make a similar offer:

Anyone who got rejected from YC S13 forward your rejection email to freewine@undergroundcellar.com and I'll send you a $25 gift card for free wine from http://UndergroundCellar.com

I'm not suggesting you drink your problems away, but a relaxing glass of wine can be a nice way to wind down before you get back to those 14 hour hack days.

Thanks! Got a link, says "promotion ended." Much appreciate it though.

FlightCar was rejected on first pass--don't feel bad guys! The reason most startups fail is because the founders give up. So don't give up and keep hustling!

--Shri (Founder, FlightCar)

Congrats to you and your team, Shri! I just read about FlightCar in TechCrunch. Very neat idea, and I look forward to seeing how everything goes!

Kettik, http://www.kettik.com/ (not mobile friendly), was rejected as well. Not very surprised or dejected by it as I was pretty much in the exact opposite founder demographic they were looking for. Single founder, close to 35, middle of the road play by the rules kind of guy loved by all (2) the big corporations that hired me over a span of 11years.

Oh well.. targeting for the YC application gave me the required focus in the last 5 months to turn my hobby/personal-use site into a full fledged travel blogging & recommendations platform ready to launch in a couple of months.

I don't think i will re-apply any time soon. My goal, starting Kettik, was to achieve creative, financial and geographic freedom. To create something of my own, travel, live and work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Not sure how free i would've been if i had funding, a team to manage and investors to give returns to. So i guess the best thing to do is to continue on my own and focus on making Kettik profitable enough to sustain itself, me and my co-founders (if i manage to find any).

And maybe one day if it grows too big for me to manage, i'll go knocking on YC's doors again.

You know what guys, I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to apply, be reviewed and then rejected. Today is one of the best days I have had in weeks. I just realized where we were and how far we have come in the month we were 'associated' with YC. YC really got us to speed things up, change our user interface, create a prototype (although YC never saw it, cause we were late), change our entire strategy.

I think YC has done more than enough for me. Anything more and this would become a fairy tale :). To be honest, I never wanted this to be an easy fairy tale. I want this to be a story worth telling to my children. I like battles where the victor emerges half-alive.

Now its time for me to captain this ship to the shore. And damnit I will :) This is my ship, my baby, and I will never let it sink alone.

Im so thankful for the people in my life. They stick with me and believe in me regardless of my lunacy, willing to take the bullets for me.

Keep working hard people. We'll meet each other at the finish line. :)

It's going to get harder and harder to get into YC (as has been the trend) which means getting rejected is going to mean less and less. It used to be an "oh we make mistakes, but mostly we find the right founders" and now it's "we find a lot of great founders, but we miss several successful ones each batch."

Don't think it means nothing, it means something about where you are in your life as a founder and how well you can communicate that (and that matters), but not anything more than that.

- 5x rejectee and pretty successful dude

Just curiously - how many video views did everybody get? We had 5 views for a total of ~4 minutes.

We had 4 views from the west coast the day after we applied. Another 4 this week. Last time we applied, we got over 20. PG says they only look at the videos if the application seems promising. So I guess my application got worse?

Don't put too much thought into this. We had ~1 view when I applied a year back and we got called in for interviews.

1 view, 30 seconds. They didn't even get to the actual proposal.

The viewing happens "embedded" usually, which I think doesn't report view count or timing as accurately. (I've seen different behavior on what seem like the same configuration)

I was thinking that must have been the case. That or I didn't spit out what made it revolutionary quickly enough.

We had like 15 from 5 different cities with 4 of 5 in SV and Boston including a SV view this morning. All views were for the full 2 minute video. Maybe we were on the cut-line, not sure. The competition is stiff...congrats to the people that got interviews.

We didn't have a prototype at all and I think even with a really strong team, it certainly has to hurt the chances.

Links to one public, embeddable youtube video (like the directions asked) were presented inline during review and were much easier to watch.

If your video wasn't on youtube, or it wasn't embeddable, or you used a third party link shortener (not youtu.be) - reviewers had to do extra work to view your video.

0 views. Which is weird because last batch we got 4 views and we feel this was a much better application.

Same here. Analytics say the only views came from our flyover state.

8 views total here. No idea how many minutes. 2 pr 3 might have been ourselves by accident.

2 views in total. One view 20 secs, the other the whole duration (1:29)

1 view 16 seconds 2 days after application was sent. :(

4 views, average of ~ 55 seconds

we had 15 views, and 5 demo views. rejected.

We had 10.

Well what is really weird is that yC's top hits as per an annotation on Harj's recent mock letter on Rapgenius got looked over:

" We missed Dropbox, Heroku and Airbnb. " [1]

If the 3 supposed hits that presently created most of yC's entire known value got passed over by the VCs at first go.. one has to be a bit skeptical about the whole idol contest.

[1] - http://rapgenius.com/Harj-taggar-well-be-circling-back-lyric...

That was a joke; he was writing as if he were an outside VC who wanted to get in on YC's next Dropbox, having missed the first one. (Coincidentally PG has said he didn't "get" AirBnB initially, but I don't think they got rejected; I'm not sure if the first Drew application which was rejected was for Dropbox or something else. I've never seen anything public about Heroku's application to YC)

" Star systems in a society come about because of a paucity of influential sorting processes. " - Lanier, Jaron (2013-03-07). Who Owns The Future? (Kindle Location 598). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

-- my thoughts --

I am sure it was.. but the main point is.. people attribute more rationality and objectivity to a process that frankly even by pg's own comments ( check out his essay on " two kinds of judgment ) is not so.

Investors ( even incubators ) should be a secondary thought to an entrepreneur's path.. I'd go so far as to point that its best to have a defensive approach and look for paths do not require them ( even pg has hinted many times via his essays.. including the cockroach bit ).

What happens when the first example arrives that clearly just bypassed the whole lot of the present ecosystem till a very late stage and hits the range of a Google or Microsoft ?

I believe I read somewhere that in his first YC application (the one that was rejected), Drew Houston applied not with Dropbox but with the SAT prep company he used to run before making Dropbox.

I've had my rejection letter as well and I was actually surprised how human and respectful was this letter. They're very good at marketing, it's like breaking up: it's not you, it's us! ;)

I think it's obvious that this rejection letter should not put a stop to your projects but rather keep improving them, that's what I'm gonna do.

I already applied to techstars and I will apply again at Y combinator. Next time I'll be ready!

I'm looking for a co-founder in order to launch a new mobile advertising platform for hyperlocalized marketing.

You can support my application at TechStars at the following url: http://www.f6s.com/geome#main/ajax-summary

I'm still at an early stage but if you're interested, PM me and I'll explain you what this is about.

You can also follow me on twitter: @Nicrogo

Many thx!!

www.getjuniper.com just got rejected! We definitely have better luck with getting ladies to like us than getting PG to like us. ;)

Love that you have a functional page and not another one of the launchrock sites I had to click through.

One alumni told me that YC was all about picking billion dollar, not million dollar businesses. In that case, could you say juniper would scale to the billion dollar market? Could your users track their usage with a recurring Google calendar entry? (I know women that do). Why not scale to include other high usage products - toothpaste, toilet paper, etc? (I know of one startup in stealth mode doing this, so it's probably a feasible plan). Sorry for playing devil's advocate - really like what you got so far though.

I've been rejected before. However it is worded, I know it is hard to take. Here is my sincere offer to help.

http://gaglers.com will be happy to help with our live chat or community chat product. We have unlimited agents and SSL in all our plans. Send your rejection email to founders@gaglers.com and get to use our top plan(Pro) for free for 6 months.

We love to help small and agile startups. Here is why, http://gaglers.com/blog/2013/03/29/live-chat-software-unlimi...

If your App or mobile startup got rejected by YC, don't worry, keep going at it. Get a free account at https://AppStoreRankings.net where we can help you get more users for your mobile (ios+android) apps. Just forward your YC rejection email to support@appstorerankings.net and we'll give you a free lifetime membership of our site.

First time and Declined! Would love to see what you've done. Come check out our application at http://parlayz.com. A social network for sports fans where you can make sports prediction models without data or programming skills. Hope to see you guys soon in the bay area.

I received this exactly email last year,September 16 to be precise,it was the first day of the rest of my life. Make no mistake about it, receiving this email hurts, but then you pick yourself up ,make your product better and better and keep on going. All the best moving forward....

Urlbox.io is offering our $9.99 plan free for life and 50% of all other plans. If you are a startup who requires to integrate screenshots as a service. Urlbox.io got easy API to help you up and running.

Email your YC rejection letter to founders@urlbox.io and we'll get you going in no time.

Some data points: we had 5 video views. Rejected. Probably too old for YC. But we're doing well, so no biggie.

We applied with Arro, http://arroapp.com - tells you which product to get by analyzing millions of ratings online.

I want this. please release for web or android

Thanks! We're planning an Android version.

Just keep going, building, and keep applying. Don't stop for anything or anyone.

completely agreed. just keep working and apply again next time around.

With acceptance rates so incomprehensibly, almost farcically low (the rate was under 2% last year, and must be approaching if not already surpassed 1%), I don't see much value in reading into one's rejection.

Rejection by YC does not mean your idea/team/execution is not good. Just keep working on your startup, in the mean time you may want to try some other top programs like techstars, 5000startups, angelpad, etc

I think it's easy to forget that there was a time when accelerators did not exist. It's a great resource and experience for those accepted, but not being accepted does not necessarily equate to failure as you suggested.

where did he suggest that rejection = failure?

so many accelerators that provide the same value as YC out there - http://www.seed-db.com/accelerators

it's a really useful link, thank you!

Just got it too for Swagmate (http://swagmate.startupthreads.com). Would love to find out about the other projects you all are working on!

Cool idea, I've always wanted some shirts from my favorite startups.

Good to hear, we've been shipping shirts from various startups for the past year in the subscription on the main site. Now doing more to help companies ship swag out. Whats your email? Would love to get your feedback.

It was our first time applying and we were rejected. Oh well, back to work!

If anyone here is a collector, check out http://CompleteSet.com and request an invite. If you like comics or toys, you'll love this.

I also got the email above for my startup activepractice.com.au. Apparently, they are not joking when they say you need a technical co-founder. Anyone who is interested, drop me a line.

Applied as a single founder with http://www.class-central.com . Still looking for a co-founder, mail me if interested :)

Nice looking website guys!

We got rejected with http://pathgather.com. First time rejection from YC. Oh well...back to work on our beta release :)

It seems YC's scalability issue is their pain point. If anyone of you can apply with a startup to solve this pain point, you will be THE startup to rule them all!

An experiment: I will buy your startup idea.


We received our second YC rejection for Splash (http://splash.io). Back to work indeed!

FYI, your website is completely broken on my Nexus 7 tablet. It appears to be some sort of fixed-width design that goes off the left side of my screen.

Darn, thanks for the heads up! :)

Judging from what I see here, most applicants sent in a landing page? Or was there more to it - any demos?

Just received it too... I will be curious to know how many applications were submitted for this batch.

Any rejectees in Toronto want to meet up for a mind meld this weekend?

Didn't apply/get rejected but am always up to meet new techies in the city.

email is in my profile.

is there anyone who hasn't received anything?

Nothing here yet. We applied a week late. Anyone else apply late with no email yet?

We are in the same boat, but I know they got a chance to look at our application because there are a couple views of our video. I am very excited/nervous/anxious. Does anyone know how long of a wait may be expected? And I was also wondering if the fact that they got a chance to review our application means the will let us know if we are rejected or accepted? Any further information on this wait period would be greatly appreciated.

Nothing here yet either, I applied late as well. Keeping my fingers crossed they even have a chance to read the application. Good luck!!

Still nothing. Does anybody know at all if they send out the rejections in waves or all at once? Any YC Alum help here would be greatly appreciated. Also, do they lump late applications in with the rest of the group or am I going to be sick to my stomach until we hear back?!

That is how I feel too. It has been 3 days since the e-mails started going out, but it feels like 3 years!

Did anyone who applied after the deadline hear back yet, good or bad?

I heard that they are still reviewing the late applications.

Hey reeper150 ~ have you heard back yet?

The trend over the last few batches has been that late applications are neither read NOR intimated ( since they were not in the fray ).

We applied April 10th. Haven't heard anything either

Hey, we still haven't heard anything. Have you guys gotten an email yet?

We are still waiting too.

Nothing yet

we haven't, and we applied before the deadline. they did email to say there was an embedding issue with our video, which we quickly corrected, but may have thrown things off.

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