Y-Combinator let 15k ‘accidents’ stay in startup school, raising questions about value 

Y-Combinator’s decision to allow the 15k applicants it accidentally admitted stay in its Startup School has raised questions about the value of ‘startup schools.’


August 22, 2018

After Y-Combinator accidentally emailed all 15k applicants that they had been admitted to its new “Startup School,” the accelerator doubled down and let them all stay.

Y-Combinator originally planned to accept just ⅓ of applicants. But by accepting them all, it called the program’s value into question.

‘Wait, I thought Y-Combinator was prestigious’

No, you’re thinking of the other Y-Combinator. Y-Comby’s original program has an acceptance rate of 1.5% (Harvard’s is 5.9%) and provides young businesses with seed money, mentorship, and networking. 

But Y-Combinator also runs a free Startup School to teach aspiring entrepreneurs to found startups. The 10-week program promises an advisor, office hours, and networking opportunities to the 3k accepted teams (plus $10k for 100 lucky startups). 

Two days ago, Y-Combinator accidentally accepted all 15k+ applicants. After initially withdrawing acceptance, YC pivoted to “make Startup School work for all founders who applied.” 

It’s bad branding for Y-Combinator…

But it’s a good reminder for aspiring entrepreneurs to be critical about the value of programs that sell prepackaged startup success. Y-Combinator’s program is free because most of the resources are available online.

While Y-Combinator’s startup school is free, other programs — such as Founder Institute, General Assembly, and Draper University — charge aspiring entrepreneurs thousands.

For entrepreneurs with existing business plans, these programs may provide good networking tools and mentorship. But, as Y-Combinator’s giveaway shows, some merely try to attract green entrepreneurs via recognizable brands — and repackaged material.

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