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What are typical compensation numbers?

About now you are probably saying, “Okay, you’ve written some helpful posts (at least we hope you think they have been helpful) on compensation, but show me the money!  What are some real life compensation numbers?” 

We hate compensation surveys. We hate average compensations ranges.  We hate industry data.  But
we know you want it (since 42 of you have asked us for it.)  Just be careful how you use it. These are our opinions and experience backed up by some industry data that we track.  Every case is different.  Your mileage will vary.  Tax, title, licence, and delivery charge not included.

Much of the cash comp will depend on how large the company is and where it is along the revenue and profitability curve.  Geography matters and while these numbers are for the U.S, there will also be major differences within different parts of the country.  Also, note that each round of financing will dilute ownership.  We’ve done our best here to spread these numbers out from early stage and more mature startups.  One thing that seems fairly consistent:  companies with less rounds of funding have lower paid executives and founders make less cash, but have more equity than non-founders.  Think of the non-founders as “hired guns” who are professional company managers, whereas the founders may not be, but given the risk of founding the company, generally hold higher equity stakes. 

Title

Cash Comp

Cash Median

Bonus

% Co Equity

% Co. Median

CEO
Founder

100k-250k

200k

0-100k

5-20%

9.0%

CEO
Non-Founder

180k-260k

225k

0-150k

3-7%

5.0%

President / COO
Founder

100k-200k

175k

0-50k

3-8%

5.0%

President / COO
Non-Founder

150k-230k

200k

0-75k

1-3%

1.5%

CFO
Founder

100k-170k

150k

0-20k

1-5%

2.5%

CFO
Non-Founder

100k-200k

160k

0-50k

0.5-1.5%

1.0%

CTO
Founder

120k-200k

160k

0-30k

2-10%

4.0%

CTO
Non-Founder

125k-200k

160k

0-50k

0.5-2%

1.0%

VP Engineering
Founder

150k-185k

160k

0-30k

1.5-5%

2.5%

VP Engineering
Non-Founder

150k-200k

175k

0-50k

0.7-1.5%

1.0%

VP Sales
Founder

175k-200k

175k

0-60k

1.2-5%

3.5%

VP Sales
Non-Founder

160k-200k

175k

20-150k

0.7-1.3%

1.0%

VP Business Dev
Founder

150k-180k

170k

0-35k

1.5-5%

3.0%

VP Business Development
Non-Founder

150k-190k

175k

0-70k

0.5-1.3%

0.75%

VP Marketing
Founder

140k-180k

160k

0-30k

1.3-7%

3.0%

VP Marketing
Non-Founder

160k-190k

175k

0-50k

0.5-1.2%

0.8%

June 4th, 2007 by     Categories: Compensation    
  • http://www.darrenherman.com Darren Herman

    Excellent insight. Fairly straightforward and I agree with the majority. Thanks!

  • Robert Dewey

    So the CEO/Founder of a seed stage startup would expect compensation of $100k? That seems like quite a bit, add a few founders in various executive positions and you’ve just burned through most of your capital.

  • http://blog.joeandrieu.com Joe Andrieu

    I agree. Early stage ventures simply don’t have the capital for these numbers and instead dole out far more equity.
    Could you break this out into seed funding, Series A, and IPO?

  • http://blog.linebuzz.com/ Mark Maunder

    Thanks for sharing this. You don’t mention liquidation preferences which have a profound impact on what 9% equity translates into when the company is, for example, sold to Google.

  • http://blog.weatherby.net Lance Weatherby

    I believe that the numbers that they are quoting are for venture backed companies. Think average salaries for an average series A of $6 million.
    From my conversations with angels, they seem to be comfortable with 50% to 75% of the lower range of these numbers.
    Seed is seed, you most likely will not get paid at all.

  • Jason

    As for the comment re: liquidation preferences, they can have a profound effect on what the percentages are actually worth.
    Check our our post on liquidation preferences that we did a while back:
    http://www.feld.com/blog/archives/000242.html

  • Dave C

    What is typical in terms of severance for each level?

  • Christopher Bader

    What’s the denominator on the percent equity numbers? They don’t add up.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    @Christopher – I’m not sure I understand the question. Not every company has all of these positions so if you add it up it won’t equal 100%.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6804072 David Weisburd

      Hi Brad, is this Series A or Seed?

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Post Series A

  • Amar500

    At what stage of the company are we talking about ? Is this series A, B or C ? 9% for the founder/ceo seems rather small.

  • http://twitter.com/oconnell1967 Courtney OConnell

    It’s interesting to see that UX and Design positions don’t even make the list.

    • Anonymous

      I think the studies were a little “old school” to have.” Certainly it’s no judgment on our part that these folks aren’t massively important, which they are.

      • tom_m

        They would never make it to the list. Not in this dated study and not now. Likely not in the future either. Not unless design was your business. CTO would take on the UX responsibilities and manage UX designers. Then you can branch out to whatever other managers you like for design and such…All of those positions being more senior, but not (typically) equity holding. They aren’t “officers” they are “managers” and “senior” this or that or “art director.” An art director is likely what you’re after and would stand a better chance of holding equity…But again, for a design based business. The only way you’re going to hold equity like that is if you’re really some sort of rock star and you negotiate it in to your contract. No one is offering it (unless they don’t have the money to pay you) and it’s not expected. You’re most likely (though it’s not impossible – nothing is impossible) not coming in as a founder with just UX or design. It’s important, but not enough. You’re going to need to broaden your skill set if you want to run a company in any capacity and then command a higher salary with the possibility of equity. Trust me, I’ve gone through this.

  • magnusrobot12

    I am worried that the numbers seem low. If a person is in an established biotech firm, why would they leave that security for a start-up company? The start-up firm has to de-risk the move from safe biotech to start-up biotech with financial incentive. I am surprised to see that a VP is expected to make only 10-20K more in salary without any security. This list does not seem accurate to me.

    • Josh Lewis

      That’s the name of the game for startups. If it was easy or secure you’d see everyone doing it.

    • Biotech Entrepreneur

      These bands differ significantly for biotech companies, where salaries are higher. The equity numbers are still directionally correct, but biotech managers, both founder and non-founder, typically get diluted significantly more on the way to exit due to the longer average timelines and greater average capital required when compared to web/software companies. (Radford and Thelander publish good compensation surveys.)

      I’ve started three biotech companies, with two sold, worked for two VC-backed startups as non-founder hired management, and spent 4 years in biotech VC. I agree that the incentive is minimal for anyone to leave a good pharma or biotech company for a venture-backed private biotech startup, given current average economics, but everyone’s individual situation is different.

  • Pete

    I am taking a position with company as business development manager trying to determine what formula to use for equity vs. cash in compensation package. My projections reflect a boost of 80% to their top-line revenue over next 18 months (currently $4mil., I add $3.2) from a special market niche. How much in equity can i ask?

  • http://uberontime.com UberOnTime

    Very interesting presentation. I’m soon to be the CTO of a new startup which I’m partnering. On friday, I will be looking at an offer and need help on making sure I get what I want.