Y Combinator accepted all 15,000 startup applicants into its Startup School after a major screw-up

Sam AltmanSam Altman, chief executive officer of Y Combinator, speaks to reporters on the first day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 11, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Y Combinator emailed tech founders 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 onto the course, which normally only hosts around 3,000.

Prestigious accelerator Y Combinator has had to accept more than 15,000 startups onto its online education programme, Startup School, after a major screw-up.

Several founders described on Twitter how Y Combinator had emailed on Monday accepting them onto 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 "an error... in the software."

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 WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum.

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

After founders described the "epic fail" and the "roller coaster," Y Combinator said it would accept the more than 15,000 companies which 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 advisors, such as its president Sam Altman.

According to Y Combinator partner Jared Friedman, that will be around 3,700 startups. It also means all 15,000 participants will be competing for the $10,000 grant that is given to 100 startups that complete the course.

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