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I've hooked up with a Seattle programmer named John DeRosa, and we're in the early stages of developing a Web product. We aren't sure where it will lead, if anywhere, but we think the concept is strong and we decided to apply for a start-up incubator-like program in Mountain View, Calif., called Y Combinator.
This was a total long shot. They get more than 1,000 applications twice a year, choosing 50 or so fledgling projects for three months of guidance in launching a business. Most of their applicants are hackers young enough to be our children, some of them still in school. I think our idea has huge potential, but it is somewhat unlike what Y Combinator has backed in the past, so we were a little out of place from the start. The application process was not difficult, however, so we thought what the hell.
Well, we didn't make the cut, but the rejection was more than thoughtful — it was downright insecure!
We're sorry to say we couldn't accept your proposal for funding. Please don't take it personally. The quality of the applications continues to increase with each cycle, and since there's a limit on the number of interviews we can do, we had to turn away a lot of genuinely promising groups.
Another reason you shouldn't take this personally is that we know we make lots of mistakes. It's alarming how often the last group to make it over the threshold for interviews ends up being one that we fund. That means there are surely other good groups that fall just below the threshold and that we miss even interviewing.
We're trying to get better at this, but it's practically certain that groups we rejected will go on to create successful startups. If you do, we'd appreciate it if you'd send us an email telling us about it; we want to learn from our mistakes.
Y Combinator Staff
Having been in a position myself to deliver bad news via mass e-mailing, I was curious to know how well I've handled similar rejection messages. Thanks to the fact I have an archive of all my personal and professional e-mail dating back to 2002, I was able to find out.