We got rejected by Y-Combinator

Why is this news?

Well, it’s not supposed to be. News is when so-and-so raised a $15 million round from Sequoia-this or Andreessen-that.

Yesterday, we had an interview with Y-Combinator for our video startup, 100. We just had a pretty good launch earlier in the week. My co-founder Finbarr is more reserved than I am – he doesn’t like to count his chickens before they hatch. But me, I had practically made myself a chicken sandwich. We’d get in for sure!

A little embarrassing to admit, but I’d already started writing my self-congratulatory Facebook status in my head. “So excited to announce that 100 has been accepted into the next batch of Y-Combinator,” I’d say.

Then at 8pm: we got our rejection email.

Ugh.

Here’s the Facebook status that went out instead:

So excited to announce that we had our YC interview today and
…didn’t get in.

You only hear about people when they succeed huh? I’m way guilty of this too. Only posting the good news on Facebook. Painting an artificially glossy version of my life.

But I better start practicing what I preach. Show my mistakes. Don’t be ashamed of failure. Be proud I tried my hardest. Fall 7 times, get up 8.

YC gave us some good, actionable feedback in their rejection email. They even challenged us to prove them wrong. I appreciate that.

Challenge accepted.

Then a cool thing started happening. One by one, people left comments about how they’d failed before. Joel Gascoigne from Buffer wrote how they didn’t get into YC – they didn’t even get an interview. People told me about other YC founders who didn’t get in on their first try. Drew Houston from Dropbox is one of them.

Overall, Silicon Valley is pretty good about embracing failure. Here, it’s not taboo to say you started a business and it failed. I don’t know anywhere else like that.

But that’s easy to forget when we see shiny headlines on TechCrunch. We’re only seeing a brief moment of glory. We don’t see the self doubt, the lost sleep. The dozens – sometimes hundreds – of rejections from investors.

We’re good at embracing failure – but we could be better. Do the scarier thing. When we stop hiding our failure, we stop fearing it.

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.

- Stephen McCranie

10 Comments

10 Responses to “We got rejected by Y-Combinator”

  1. Aleksey Korzun November 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    On to the next one ;)

  2. Jeffry Houser November 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I have yet to find a place where it is taboo to say you started a business and failed.

    You’ve been hanging out in the wrong places / with the wrong people.

    [I also wouldn't equate not getting into Y-Combinator to failing as a business]

  3. FakeValley November 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    You can try ZC. PG has made it even better.

    http://fakevalley.com/paul-graham-launches-z-combinator-topramen-and-diet-coke-for-25-percent-stake/

  4. g November 18, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Keep it up and stay focused! To quote one very known technocrat: ‘Stay foolish, stay hungry’ – you have to do foolish mistakes under way :)

  5. Kieren Brown November 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    Hey Karen

    Keep your head up. Succeeding in business is the same as anything else, you keep going and keep going until you eventually get to where you want to go. Not everybody will see the greatness of your ideas at first but that doesn’t mean that they
    aren’t there. Keep pushing and keep the rejection letter for something to have a good chuckle over in 2 years’ time :)

    Kieren

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  7. Jared December 11, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    This is an amazing post and self-reflection. Keep it up.

  8. Daniel December 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Glad you’ll positive :) I love your idea and the website, so don’t give up!

  9. Maureen December 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    @Jeffry Houser

    The Power of Empathy
    http://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw

    @Karen You have really inspired me, and I appreciate everything you’ve done. Thank you!

  10. Ben December 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Only failure can oil the machinery of success. Well that and a few other things. But failure is the most practical. :)

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