Y Combinator, a startup program that's harder to get into than Harvard, accepts all 15,000 applicants into Startup School after a major screwup

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSam Altman, the president of Y Combinator.
  • Y Combinator emailed tech founders this week saying they had been accepted into Startup School, its free online course for entrepreneurs.
  • Except it was a mistake, and founders were hugely disappointed.
  • Y Combinator then did another U-turn and said all 15,000 applicants had been accepted into the course, which normally hosts about 3,000.
  • Startup School is different from Y Combinator’s core accelerator programme, which has helped famous startups such as Airbnb, Reddit, and Stripe.

The prestigious startup accelerator Y Combinator has accepted more than 15,000 startups into its Startup School online education program after a major screwup.

Several founders said on Twitter that Y Combinator had emailed them Monday accepting them into Startup School, only for the firm to follow up hours later with a rejection email. In the apologetic follow-up email, Y Combinator blamed its earlier acceptance message on a software error.

Startup School is a free, 10-week course that educates founders about how to grow and manage their startup through video lectures from entrepreneurs such as the WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum.

It is separate from the company’s core accelerator program, which has produced successful firms such as Airbnb and Reddit. Last year, 2,800 companies took part in Startup School out of about 13,000 applicants.

After founders described the “epic fail” and the “roller coaster,” Y Combinator said it would accept all of the more than 15,000 companies that had applied to take part in Startup School.

Here’s what the company wrote, billing its mistake as a learning opportunity:

“Our goal has always been to help the maximum number of startups, but we were concerned that our infrastructure for Startup School would not support all the companies that applied, which was more than 15,000 startups.

“After today’s mistake, though, it seems like the only right thing to do is to let everyone in. We’ve decided to use our error as a forcing function to find a way to make Startup School work for all founders who applied.”

That’s good news for founders who had just resigned themselves to not taking part:

Not all 15,000 participating companies will receive all Startup School perks.

Only the smaller, originally accepted batch of companies will have access to Y Combinator’s network of advisers, who are all YC alumni.

According to the Y Combinator partner Jared Friedman, that will be about 3,700 startups. It also means all 15,000 participants will be competing for the $US10,000 grant that is given to 100 startups that complete the course.

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