A Short Response To Y Combinator’s “VC Boilerplate” Post

I realize it’s probably not too wise to call out Y Combinator, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been thinking about a post from Paul Graham’s blog earlier this week called “We’ll Be Circling Back.” Now, I have been reading Graham’s essays for years. As someone who enjoys writing (and reading), his essays are so rich I could never imagine myself ever having the depth to do something similar. I hope to, one day. However, in this post, which one some levels was hilarious in its use of language, I also found it to be suggestive in an unhealthy manner. In the post, it cites a mock letter from an investor about a YC startup and is labeled “VC boilerplate.” Everyone at some point in their life has received a boilerplate rejection, and it sucks. No doubt about that. However, there are some dangerous implications in this particular mock letter, namely stereotyping VCs monolithically. I haven’t been around here too long, but in the six months I spent in venture capital and in the two years within which I’ve sourced and matched a good number of deals, I have *never* seen any investor pen that kind of response. On the contrary, I’ve mostly seen investors who decide to say “no” go out of their way to meet the person and explain why, or to detail some bullets in an email. Now, I’m sure one of the thousands of investors around here would sling boilerplate language (or are generally not direct or honest people to begin with), but that strikes me as the exception, while Graham’s post suggests it may the rule. Not only do I not believe that to be true, but I have never seen it, and I have also seen founders who (1) use their own boilerplate pitch language in slide decks and emails, and (2) don’t respond well when an investor candidly explains why they have elected to “pass.” I don’t go to YC demo days nor feel this is all a sacred cow, so I felt compelled to simply share my views on the matter, which is to restore a bit of balance and perspective to the suggestive narrative.