I thought they would hate us after being rejected 😡

Our eternal struggle to bring more transparency to the Incubateur application process…


Two weeks ago we closed the application call for the Incubateur HEC Paris. We received 159 applications. So with François Jolly we developed a screening tool which short-listed the eligibles projects within 24 hours of their application, which still gave us 78 application files to read. This saved time for the non-eligible project, as they didn't have to waste their timing filling our (long) complete application form. In the previous batch selections we used to only grade and rank projects based on 20 criteria, then invite the top 18 candidates to an individual pitch and jury interview.


In this batch, we asked our evaluators to write down individual feedback for every application that they read, and offered to the rejected applicants to share this feedback with them.


So on Monday, when we shared the results of the selection, we received an avalanche of feedback request! 60 startups got the bad news and wanted to know why ! (Our evaluation criteria and scoring system are not public).

On Tuesday we started replying individually to all these 60 entrepreneurs, with 3 different individual opinions on their project, the reason why we didn't select them, and the advice that we could give them to move forward and improve what they are trying to do!

Together with Diane Bruneau we took the responsibility of sending these emails. We felt doomed, it was such an uncomfortable task having to say no to people who work so hard on building their own venture with so much dedication, and who are asking for our support at the Incubateur. We didn't know what to expect from these entrepreneurs: hate, ignorance, deny? Actually we didn't expect any reply to our emails. But what we received amazed us.


Here is a small selection of the many more emails we received :


"Thank you for your detailed feedback on the application, we will be sure to take it into account moving forward in our project."

"Génial, merci beaucoup pour les feedbacks ! Ils sont plutôt positifs en plus…"

"Merci de votre retour et de votre transparence, Nous avons pris en compte les feedback"

"Many thanks for this feedback. I will work on the points highlighted and hope to be selected in the next session."


My personal favourite, in which they agree with our decision:
"Thank you for your quick feedbacks, we agree with you, and we will come back to you when we will have resolved these points."


"Thank you very much for the feedback. It is very clear for us. We would like to build something more tangible as soon as possible."

"Thank you very much, I understand your opinion and moreover I understand that my pitch was not clear (...) I wish all the best to the HEC incubator team"

"Merci pour ce retour constructif ! Nous comprenons toutefois votre décision, à regret je dois l’avouer, et nous ne manquerons pas de postuler aux prochaines sessions si notre projet a suffisamment évolué d’ici là." 

"Un grand merci pour votre retour, qui nous aide beaucoup. Nous ne manquerons pas de postuler ultérieurement à votre incubateur.

"The exercise in applying was well worth the time and effort. As a company, many times a start-up becomes so myopically focused, that you forget to "check out" where you are. The questions you asked, "woke" us up! We realized that we need to ask many of those questions weekly, or monthly, and keep an overview of our progress or our glitches. Thank you for that!"


Of course, we also received a couple of negative feedbacks, but way less than what we used to cope with in the past, and we took them as advice to improve our process ! 


So a big thank you for the love to all of you, amazing entrepreneurs who applied at the Incubateur HEC Paris's Spring 2021 Batch, keep-up the good work, and for the first time in my life I can say that I am looking forward to the next batch selection, which will take place in less than 3 months!



Philadelphe, Program Manager, Incubateur HEC Paris