You Have a Shot at Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive Ranks

There comes a point in every business pitch where the investor looks at all your hard work and asks the pivotal question: Can it scale?

Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's most famous and exclusive incubator program, didn't think so — not until they accidentally turned their 3,000-person Startup School into a 15,000 class last summer. Something moved fast and lots definitely got broken, but ultimately, the company's leaders decided to go with it. Now, going forward, instead of keeping class sizes small, Y Combinator is tossing enrollment caps out the window.

One qualification before you get really excited: You're thinking of the startup accelerator, which birthed the likes of Airbnb and remains incredibly hard to break into. But the Startup School is nothing to sneeze at. Participants learn from some of the best in the business, and having Y Combinator on your resume can open a lot of doors.

At least, that's been the case up until now. Some critics worry that by making its resources more widely available in pursuit of meritocracy, Y Combinator is diluting its brand. (For a good podcast episode on why our brains interpret shared opportunity and recognition that way, check out "Better Than Cash: How Awards Can Shape Our Behavior" from NPR's psychology and neuroscience show Hidden Brain.)

If you're interested in Startup School, the next 10-week course begins in July. Sometimes the best things in life really are free — and if you've got a unicorn in the wings, all the better.