How it Feels to Make it to the Y Combinator Interview, But Not Get In

After flying half way around the world last week (from Israel to SV) for a 10 minute interview and not getting into YC, I spent the last week wondering which is worse: not getting invited to YC or getting invited to the interview but not getting accepted. For better or for worse, I have unique perspective on this question because, well, I’ve actually experienced both.

Getting that close and then getting the “no-email” hurts, especially because we really thought we were going to get in. We were one of those teams that had figured out a semi sneaky way to, not only get our product in front of YC, but actually add value for them as well. Plus, leading up to the interview I told our team that we should go ahead and count our chickens before they hatch. If we got turned down, it would hurt no matter what, and at the very least we could live like kings for two weeks. And for the 12 hours in between our interview and receiving the dreaded “no-email,” we walked around San Francisco imagining how being a YC company was going to dramatically change our fortune.

But when 8:30 came, and the “no-email” arrived, it was a rare punch in the gut that I had trouble putting into words. I had never felt anything quite like it.

After the trip to SV, I stopped off in NYC for a few meetings. Had we gotten in to YC, I was planning to celebrate with some close friends. Background: I lived in NYC for the last 13 years, but moved to Israel last August to work in the same place as my cofounders. Although I’ve been happy with the move, I left a few close friends behind in NYC who I miss dearly including my brother in law with whom I was particularly close. Leading up to the YC interview, I was looking forward to sharing my good news with them.

But, after not making the cut, I was in no mood to celebrate. I ducked calls and emails from friends; all I wanted to do was work (or wallow). But two of my friends refused to take no for an answer and dragged me to my favorite NYC outing: the Russian bathhouse in Wall Street followed by the 2nd Ave Deli.

It was just what I needed. Hanging out with my pals completely took my mind off the YC rejection. Maybe it was the steam room or the vodka & herring that we snuck in with us, but the evening was pure bliss. But, at the end of the night, we had to go our separate ways and the pain of separating from friends I felt last August was back once again.

Bummer.

And then it hit me: this is exactly what it feels like to get invited to YC and then not get in. It is the feeling of getting together with great friends for only a few hours and then having to part ways. Sure, it would be easier if we hadn’t gotten together, and we wouldn’t have to then say our good byes. But does that mean I would I pass up on the night out? No fucking way.

Getting rejected at the YC application stage is definitely easier. You don’t get your hopes up, you don’t have to travel and you don’t have to come home to people who now feel the need to console you. But what is life if not a collection of memorable experiences? My cofounders and I may never have a day quite like last Monday and I know that one day we’ll look back and be grateful for the experience, even if it stung.

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