Your chances of getting into Y Combinator are not 1 in 100

Rob Hunter
3 min readJul 11, 2018


I met a startup founder yesterday, and we had a great discussion about her business. I suggested she apply for YC. She had a great story, knew her business well, and seemed like a great candidate.

She expressed some concern about her chances of getting in — “don’t they only accept like 1% of applicants?”

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend several years ago — we had both worked at an early stage startup, and he was frustrated. He planned to only work for big companies in the future, declaring that “the odds of making money in a startup are so low, I could make more at a big company instead of doing my own company.”

I think there’s a critical piece of logic missing here.

The chances aren’t equal for everybody! This is not a lottery where everyone has an equal chance of getting in — it’s not random chance!

Your odds of getting into YC are not 1 in 100.

They are either much, much higher than that — or much, much lower than that.

Hopefully, your company has some combination of the following:

  • It solves a real problem or pain point that you’re personally knowledgeable about
  • It’s seen real and growing user/customer adoption
  • You have a strong, tight-knit co-founding team
  • You have at least a faint idea of how this could grow into a very large company
  • You seem like you could accomplish a lot in 90 days
  • You can explain what your company does and what makes it special in simple, easy-to-understand language
  • Etc.

If your company checks enough of these boxes, your odds of getting into YC are much better than 1 in 100.

YC does not make many false-negative errors. It may sound overly simplistic, but if your company is what they’re looking for, you will probably get in — there’s not really any random chance involved.

Conversely, if your company doesn’t have many of these characteristics, your odds of getting into YC are actually much worse than 1 in 100 — they’re likely close to non-existent.

YC does not make a lot of false-positive errors. I can’t say I’ve run into one founder or one company that I think “shouldn’t” have gotten into the program.

Quick analogy:

The US population is 325,000,000.

There is 1 president.

Suggesting that your odds of becoming president are 1 in 325,000,000 would be pretty silly.

Nearly all Americans have significantly lower odds than that.

A very small amount of Americans have significantly higher odds than that — if you believe FiveThirtyEight, Hillary Clinton got as high as 71%.

At the end of the day, these macro-level stats about acceptance rates should have little to no bearing on your decision to apply to YC (or to run for president, for that matter).

YC applications for the W19 batch are now open! Apply — your odds are much better (or worse!) than you think. I’ve personally reviewed over 100 applications, and I’d be glad to help with yours — feel free to reach out.



Rob Hunter

YC Founder, Father, Husband, Canadian, Former Ice Cream Store Owner, Former Japanese Professional Wrestling E-Commerce Vendor, Former Real Estate Investor