How to Reapply to YC

Y Combinator is an incredible institution and an invaluable experience. I won’t go into details as to why you should apply. You can check out what Kash, Lawn Love or ClearTax says on the subject.

Additionally, if you want great advice on how to prep for applying, check out Aptible’s how to guide.

Why You Should Reapply

  1. YC will be incredibly helpful for your startup, whether you have been working on it for 2 days or 2 years.
    When Rafi and I started in this year’s summer batch, we’d been working on MTailor full-time for over 1.5 years, and we have absolutely no regrets about joining. For us, YC was particularly helpful for acquiring users.
  2. It takes almost no time.
    Since you already filled the application out and agonized over it once, you should be able to copy and paste most answers and update the few questions where your answers have changed.
  3. After 6 months, it is good to reflect on how your business has changed and grown.
    Forcing you to write down and summarize your progress can be a great exercise to reflect on whether you have been focused on the right things.

What to Do After a Rejection

You go back to work and make progress – talk to users and build the product. It sounds obvious, and you have probably heard that statement from every YC alum ever, but that’s because they’re really the only things that will lead to a better product and growth. A rejection from YC isn’t a death knell; your reaction to it could be.

Talking to a user

When we got rejected for W14, we had mostly finalized the MTailor measurement technology and had a very rough app that walked you through getting measured but didn’t sell you any shirts – we were selling the shirts by measuring customers with an iPad and showing them fabrics out of a physical swatch book. And by selling, I mean to the 3 friends who were willing to try MTailor at that point.

In the next 6 months, we built and launched the whole experience in an iOS app (although we still thought of it as a public beta), refined the technology and style of our shirts, switched our business model and acquired 40 paying customers.

That brings us to the second time we applied.

Applying (Again)

Applying again is rather easy, since you did most of the work the first time around. So don’t be deterred by pride. Some of the best advice we got when prepping the first time (from a YC alum) was that if we got rejected, we should definitely apply again. So submit and see what happens.

Most of our second application was copy and pasted from the first. We also practiced less for the interview. The best prep was acquiring 40 real customers and getting feedback from them.

The second interview also had a different tone than the first one, because it focused a lot on progress we’d made since our previous interview. How fast your company is moving is hard to judge from a single data point; now that YC had two, they could really understand our progress.

Bonus: if you can get a YC partner to try your product and like it, you will have a much easier interview. During our second application process, Justin Kan got measured using the app. However, he didn’t order. We saw his name in our database and we knew who he was, so we moved heaven and earth to make him a custom shirt in a single day (typical time: 3 weeks) and overnighted it to the YC office, since our interview was less than 5 days away. When we walked into our interview, we had a happy customer as one of our judges.

Some YC partners showing off MTailor shirts at Demo Day

Living without YC

While I cannot say where MTailor would be today without YC, I can say that YC was not going to make or break MTailor, and I wasn’t going to be scarred by the rejection. Rafi and I believed in the business and each other and continued to build after our rejection, and we would have continued if we’d been rejected again.

YC can be a life-saver, but don’t mistake getting in or not for being a good company or a bad one. A good company builds a product people want; YC just helps you do that.

Shameless MTailor Plug (Non Sequitor)

We sell men’s custom shirts by measuring you with your phone’s camera. We’re scientifically proven to be 20% more accurate than a professional tailor, and our shirts start at $69, half the price you would typically pay for a custom shirt of our quality.

If you need a new shirt for a wedding, for work or for an upcoming date, please check us out.

Thank you Rafi Witten, Justin Kan and Garry Tan for reading drafts of this.