We Got Rejected by Y-Combinator

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A founder talks about why she decided to go public with her failure, and what happened when she did. 

By Karen X. Cheng (Co-founder, 100)

Why is this news?

Well, it’s not supposed to be. News is when so-and-so raised a $15 million round from Sequoia-this or Andreessen-that.

Yesterday, we had an interview with Y-Combinator for our video startup, 100. We just had a pretty good launch earlier in the week. My co-founder Finbarr is more reserved than I am – he doesn’t like to count his chickens before they hatch. But me, I had practically made myself a chicken sandwich. We’d get in for sure!

A little embarrassing to admit, but I’d already started writing my self-congratulatory Facebook status in my head. “So excited to announce that 100 has been accepted into the next batch of Y-Combinator,” I’d say.

Then at 8pm: we got our rejection email.

Ugh.

Here’s the Facebook status that went out instead:

So excited to announce that we had our YC interview today and… didn’t get in.

You only hear about people when they succeed huh? I’m way guilty of this too. Only posting the good news on Facebook. Painting an artificially glossy version of my life.

But I better start practicing what I preach. Show my mistakes. Don’t be ashamed of failure. Be proud I tried my hardest. Fall 7 times, get up 8.

YC gave us some good, actionable feedback in their rejection email. They even challenged us to prove them wrong. I appreciate that.

Challenge accepted.

Then a cool thing started happening. One by one, people left comments about how they’d failed before. Joel Gascoigne from Buffer wrote how they didn’t get into YC – they didn’t even get an interview. People told me about other YC founders who didn’t get in on their first try. Drew Houston from Dropbox is one of them.

Overall, Silicon Valley is pretty good about embracing failure. Here, it’s not taboo to say you started a business and it failed. I don’t know anywhere else like that.

But that’s easy to forget when we see shiny headlines on TechCrunch. We’re only seeing a brief moment of glory. We don’t see the self doubt, the lost sleep. The dozens – sometimes hundreds – of rejections from investors.

We’re good at embracing failure – but we could be better. Do the scarier thing. When we stop hiding our failure, we stop fearing it.

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.

- Stephen McCranie

This post originally appeared on Karen’s personal blog

Do you talk openly about your failures?

0ebe000About the blogger: Karen X. Cheng learned to dance in a year. Her dance video has been seen by over 3 million people and has inspired thousands to pursue their passions. She’s the co-founder of 100, a video site where you choose something to get better at and take a video of your progress every day. Say hi @karenxcheng