How We Got Into Y Combinator (Part 2)
29 Jun 2021
In part 1 I covered the first few months of rebank and how we were invited to YC but didn't make it past the face-to-face interview. This second part breaks down how we came back from that no to be accepted into the W19 batch.
Failure is something you get used to as a founder. The starting point for most founders' understanding of what customers want is almost always wrong, but with fast learning and iteration you get closer to being mostly right. This pattern repeats itself in everything that you do as a founder - we took feedback from YC and iterated. This is how it panned out.
Reflecting and making new plans
After landing back home we got straight back to work. Despite the setback, our plans did not need YC to succeed. We took time to reflect on our progress and started planning ahead to answer questions like; when do we need to raise, what progress do we want to make in the next six months, etc.
We realised that Y Combinator Demo Day 2019, i.e. the next batch, would give us time to acquire more customers and build a better MVP. Also, we still didn't have our regulation which meant that we couldn't onboard customers - this needed to change.
Between May and November 2018 a lot of things happened; we became authorised by the FCA, I graduated and could focus 100% of my time on rebank, and we got into YC Startup School.
Startup School taught us how to focus on our customers. We got to meet amazing international Y Combinator founders, and the YC alum that were our coaches were incredible. I'd strongly recommend doing Startup School to any new founder - we signed up our first pilot customers thanks to it!
Life goes on
By September, Simon and I had gone without a salary for almost 10 months (even longer for me) so we decided to start working a few days a week to maintain our personal runways. The work was one of many distractions during the second-half of 2018 but we still managed to dedicate time to rebank.
Starting a company means you give all your attention to the pursuit of the next milestone; everything else feels like a distraction. It can feel like you're putting the rest of your life on hold - and after ten months of putting your life on hold you really start to feel it!
The focus paid off though. On the 24th October 2018, four months after we had our first interview, we heard from Y Combinator again. It was time for our second interview 🛫
The lead up to the interview was just like last time. The difference this time was that we had gone through Startup School and knew more Y Combinator alum to get feedback from. We had added Aaron (with his permission) to our product updates email so he knew the progress we were making between interviews.
The final verdict
Lunchtime on the 8th November 2018, we stepped into the interview room where three YC partners were waiting. We knew what to expect this time but the stakes were higher - I had $95 left in my account and Simon had burned through most of his savings.
In front of us was employee no. 1 from Yahoo, the admissions guru at YC, and a former Sequoia-backed founder turned YC partner: not much else stood out about those ten minutes. Two of the partners asked clarifying questions and thanks to our prep we answered them quickly. At the end of the interview we didn't know if we had answered enough questions, or if we had made enough progress since the first interview. At 6PM PST, we heard from Aaron.
Ten months after starting rebank we were accepted into Y Combinator! 🎉
We went to an induction the following afternoon to learn more about the program - we had just under two months to go back home, say our final goodbyes to family and friends, and return to Silicon Valley for Y Combinator W19.