Comparing salary data across all respondents, a few overall trends emerged. Founders often start with a low salary, and more than 5% of our respondents pay themselves zero salary. Nearly half pay themselves less than $100,000 annually.
Almost 75% of founders reported funding between $100K and $10M, with 27% reporting funding between $1M and $3M.
Founders who are VC-backed are more likely to have higher salaries compared to their bootstrapped counterparts. Of the founders who paid themselves between $100K and $200K annually, on average, 91% of them were VC-backed while only 7% were bootstrapped.
About 50% of bootstrapped founders pay themselves between $1-$100K annually while more than 60% of VC-backed founders pay themselves between $50K and $150K a year.
Bootstrapped companies were defined as those with no funding while VC-backed salaries are defined as those with some investor capital.
This section looks at how much founders are paying themselves, relative to the number of full-time employees (FTEs) at their company.
This section looks at how much founders are paying themselves in specific locations. By examining salaries in the context of their geography, we attempt to control for cost-of-living differences that might distort the overall averages.
Geography plays a major role in a startup's overall finances and salaries. In this section, we'll provide further context by looking at funding and company sizes that are remote, or within the SF Bay and NYC areas.
We hope this report gives you a good sense of what other founders are doing for salaries, and we hope that it serves as a useful guide in discussing founder compensation with your cofounders and your investors.
We’d like to end with a little bit of a philosophical note: there’s no magic number for what you as a founder should pay yourself. Market comps of course matter, but ultimately the question is a highly personal one: what salary is needed to allow you to focus your efforts on making the business successful?
In particular: if your salary is too low, you’ll spend a bunch of time and energy stressing out how to make your rent payment or how to cover your childcare costs—and all that stress distracts you from making your business successful.
So in short, the correct 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.