Here’s the story of Codiqa, rejected by Y Combinator and successful almost immediately thereafter.
Of more interest is the HN discussion forum where Paul Graham muses on how they miss eventual successes:
Believe it or not I like this being the top story. We know there are lots of bugs in our process and we want to hear the bug reports.
I went back to look at the application. It fell immediately below the threshold for invitation to interviews. I.e. if even one of us had given them a grade one step better, they would have made it to interviews.
When we make mistakes, it’s usually in this phase. Most of the time when we screw up it’s by not inviting a group to interviews, rather than by interviewing them and turning them down. So this startup is exactly where a mistake would be most likely to occur: in the applications that fell just short of the cutoff for interviews.
The good news is, we’d already decided to fix this problem. We’re going to do 3 interview tracks for s2012, which will let us interview 270 groups instead of the 180 we did last time.
If we’d done that last time, we would have interviewed these guys. But last batch was the first time we did parallel interview tracks at all, and we needed to test whether it worked for 2 before we went to 3.
Counter-factuals are tricky buggers, though. What if rejection was what Codiqa needed?
The power of rejection fuels many (all?) successful people. Most famously it fueled Michael Jordan, who never missed a chance to roast in the flames of past rejection:
“There wasn’t one coach that I didn’t listen and try to learn from,” Jordan said. “They all knew more about the game than I knew, and probably still know about the game, more about the game now, than even I know at this point. But I respect them for taking the time to teach me the game of basketball. Goes all the way back to Clifton Herring, who was the first guy to ever cut me.”
Are Codiqa the Michael Jordan of startups? Likely not, but drive is the most powerful determinant of success and for some reason we find it most easily in real adversity.