Today, YCombinator sent me a rejection letter for Startup School… by mistake

I was disappointed to have received the rejection letter from Startup School. I thought we’d qualify as I’ve had two startups in the past (I exited the first) and the second one grew to over $5 million in annual revenue and which I still run. Plus, I think the idea I submitted is fantastic. I’ve had three ideas that I couldn’t get out of my mind and the first two became successful companies. I think my third has the highest likelihood to be a unicorn and this was what I submitted.

But I also know I didn’t put my all into the application. Typically, if I want something, I’ll go out of the box and deliver more than a reasonable person would expect. Something like making a website just for the Startup School application or a video explaining why we should be accepted. Anything to stand out from the crowd. But there is a ton of stuff that needs to be done in my startup itself, and so my sense was I needed to keep most of my effort there.

Still, the rejection was disappointing. I thought I did enough.

Rejection letter from Startup School

I let Jason and Sam on our team know via Slack. They asked why we were rejected and I said I didn’t know but I felt like we probably could have made it if I had put in more effort.

Still, I was fired up. One of my biggest motivators is proving to people that they shouldn’t underestimate me, especially people I respect. So, in some ways, I was happy that I got rejected because I had a reason to have to prove myself again.

A few hours later I ran across this story in Hacker News

YCombinator sent acceptance letters mistakenly to startups that were to receive rejection letters. People announced their acceptance to Twitter, to spouses, to family, to their teams but then had to dial it back. I felt sorry for them. I also felt sorry for YCombinator. Sometimes you do something with care and for the greater good and you end up with something that is in complete disalignment with your beliefs.

Halfway through reading the comments, I thought, if some people who were accepted were rejected, maybe some people that were rejected were accepted. No comments to that effect, but I thought I’d check just in case.

Here’s what I found

Acceptance letter to Startup School


I completely accepted we weren’t in. This was like a tearful goodbye at the airport and then running into the person again.

I let Jason and Sam know but waited for confirmation that the second email was correct before announcing to the rest of our team.

We’ve let everyone else know now and I’m excited about what participation feels like and what it can do for us to help us moe forward.

Here’s where I am with what happened: The experience, got me fired up enough to write about it. It was kind of exciting. It also made me experience losing and I really don’t like losing. And even though we were actually accepted (i.e. I had done enough), I got back that feeling that I need to deliver more than expected.

YCombinator, thanks for accepting KnowledgeBook. Also, I’m so sorry for what happened. I love the idea of startup school and it’s got to be super painful when a project you built to help the community ends up hurting it.

Edit: Wow! YCombinator chose to accept all startups that applied! From the perspective of one of the companies that got in, this is objectively a worse outcome for us, but I have a lot of respect for this choice. Keep helping the community YC and thanks!

My startup: We are in public beta with an ugly home page but if you can get over it, KnowledgeBook is the best ways for teams to share and keep each other up-to-date on any kind of information, especially for projects (and our home page will get better). We specialize in bigger knowledge that isn’t easily expressed in notes apps or (single page) document apps. It’s so easy to use and good at this that many of our clients are succeeding having come off of failed attempts to use Google Drive/Docs, Evernote, One Note and any number of other tools to manage their knowledge.