The 2022 Pilot Founder Salary Report
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“What should I be paying myself?” is one of the most common questions we get from founders.
Actual, real-world benchmark data is hard to come by, but fortunately, we work with literally thousands of startup founders. We’ve pulled together a dataset from startup founders around the world, of varying stages, sizes, and funding levels, to get answers to the big questions around salary.
We’re excited to share our 2022 Founder Salary Report, which we hope you’ll find useful!
This report provides a sense of what other founders in similar positions are doing and what trends they’re facing. No report can give you the exact magic number of what you should pay yourself (more on this later) but it will give you an idea of where to start and serve as a useful guide in discussing founder compensation with your co-founders and your board. So we hope you find it to be a helpful resource!
While I have your ear, I’d like to emphasize another point: what matters is not what the market comps say or what your investors think. Instead the operative question is: how much money do you need to be paid to make it possible for you to focus on the business?
All of us want our companies to succeed, and that generally means making sacrifices, especially in the early stages when resources are limited. In an attempt to be frugal and responsible, founder salaries are frequently an area where some sacrifice is demanded—so that you can use the cash to hire employees, buy equipment, etc.
The problem with this approach: if your salary is too low, you’ll spend a bunch of time and energy stressing out about how to make your rent payment, agonizing over whether you should take a cab or walk, or whether you can really afford to meet a friend for a quick meal. And doubly so if you’re also supporting a family. All of that stress is sapping away energy that would ideally be focused on making the business successful. So in short, the right amount to pay yourself (company funds permitting) is not a specific dollar amount: it’s enough so that you can focus all of your energy on creating a successful company.
Having said that, I’ve talked to many founders who have found this report valuable, and I hope you will as well.