Report

Founder Salary Report 2022

Presented by

How much should you be paying yourself?

We launched our first Founder Salary Report in 2021 and received such tremendous feedback that we are excited to present to you the results of Pilot’s new and improved Founder Salary Report, 2022 edition! We want to start by thanking all the founders who participated in the survey—this is quite a rare snapshot of real-world data gathered from over 500 startup founders across the globe.

This report will give you a sense of what your peers are doing, and what the trends are for companies like yours. We know you’ll enjoy this report and we hope it’s a useful guide in discussing founder compensation with your cofounders and your board.

Overview

Annual Salaries

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.

46%
of founders pay themselves less than $100K annually
Note: Includes zeros

Funding

Almost 75% of founders reported funding between $100K and $10M, with 27% reporting funding between $1M and $3M.

27%
of founders have reported funding between $1M to $3M
Note: Includes zeros

Salaries by Funding Level

This section looks at how much founders are paying themselves, relative to the amount of funding that their company has raised. While our responses came from a wide spectrum of funding amounts, answers overall skewed between $100K and $3M in funding, with over 40% falling into this range.

Bootstrapped vs. VC-Backed Salaries Breakdown

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.

$0
18%
3%
$1-$49.9K
26%
6%
$50K-$99K
25%
33%
$100K-$149K
15%
28%
$150K-$199K
6%
18%
$200K-$249K
3%
6%
$250K-$299K
1%
3%
$300K+
6%
2%

Bootstrapped companies were defined as those with no funding while VC-backed salaries are defined as those with some investor capital.

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level*

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
Chicago
$360K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$20K
Average Salary
$115K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Orem UT
$24K
Average Salary
$85K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
Remote
$750K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$8K
Average Salary
$109K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
Remote
$230K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
San Francisco
$1
Average Salary
$125K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
NYC
$400K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Long Beach CA
$48K
Average Salary
$142K
Lowest Salary
$49K
Highest Salary
Remote
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$49K
Average Salary
$172K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
Remote
$1M
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$65K
Average Salary
$252K
*Excludes Other International and Europe

Salaries by Company Size

This section looks at how much founders are paying themselves, relative to the number of full-time employees (FTEs) at their company.

Our results here skewed toward smaller companies, with nearly half of respondents employing 5 people or fewer. Only 8% of respondents employed more than 25 FTEs. We used the number of FTEs to approximate both size and sophistication. As businesses grow, their needs become more complex, and their employee count tends to grow as well.

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
San Francisco
$1
Average Salary
$94K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
Remote
$750K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Santa Clara, CA
$12K
Average Salary
$129K
Lowest Salary
$8K
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$8K
Average Salary
$139K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
Remote
$1M
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$70K
Average Salary
$195K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
Remote
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$65K
Average Salary
$214K

Salaries by Geography

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.

60% of our responses were either from respondents who were Remote or based in the San Francisco Bay Area. We list these locations specifically below.

Average Salaries by Location

$134K
Remote
$88K
LA Area
$124K
Texas Area
$127K
NYC Area
$140K
Boston Area
$128K
SF Bay Area

Breakdown of Salaries by Geography

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$1
Average Salary
$128K
Lowest Salary
$40K
Highest Salary
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$40K
Average Salary
$127K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$265K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$24K
Average Salary
$140K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$216K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$20K
Average Salary
$88K
Lowest Salary
$60K
Highest Salary
$250K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$60K
Average Salary
$124K
Lowest Salary
$0K
Highest Salary
$1M
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$8K
Average Salary
$134K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$360K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$24K
Average Salary
$121K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$20K
Average Salary
$70K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$5K
Average Salary
$71K
Other US
Includes Seattle, Chicago, Utah, Delaware, Columbus, Connecticut, Minneapolis, Tampa, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota, Washington, Miami, Sacramento, Iowa, North Carolina, San Diego, and Central California.
Other International
India, Indonesia, Singapore, Brazil, Ukraine, Dubai, Mexico, Australia, Colombia, Chile, Pakistan, China, Germany, and Portugal

Deep Dives by Geography

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.

For this report, we are only providing deep dives for these three geographies. In future reports, we hope to gather more robust data from other areas, and offer deep-dive analysis for more regional markets.

SF Bay Area

Salaries

$0
7%
$1-$49.9K
7%
$50K-$99K
24%
$100K-$149K
29%
$150K-$199K
18%
$200K-$249K
7%
$250K-$299K
4%
$300K+
3%

Funding

$0-$999.9K
21%
$1M-$2.9M
27%
$3M-$4.9M
15%
$5M-$9.9M
12%
$10M+
20%

Full-Time Employees

0-5 FTEs
49%
6-10 FTEs
17%
11-25 FTEs
17%
26+ FTEs
16%

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$26K
Average Salary
$77K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$290K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$12K
Average Salary
$104K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$1
Average Salary
$117K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$289K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$72K
Average Salary
$146K
Lowest Salary
$90K
Highest Salary
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$90K
Average Salary
$186K

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$1
Average Salary
$91K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$250K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$12K
Average Salary
$132K
Lowest Salary
$72K
Highest Salary
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$72K
Average Salary
$154K
Lowest Salary
$90K
Highest Salary
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$90K
Average Salary
$192K

New York City Area

Salaries

$0
0%
$1-$49.9K
2%
$50K-$99K
28%
$100K-$149K
37%
$150K-$199K
24%
$200K-$249K
4%
$250K-$299K
2%
$300K+
2%

Funding

$0-$2.9M
52%
$3M-$9.9M
28%
$10M+
20%

Full-Time Employees

0-5 FTEs
50%
6-10 FTEs
20%
11-25 FTEs
20%
26+ FTEs
11%

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level

Lowest Salary
$40K
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$40K
Average Salary
$103K
Lowest Salary
$70K
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$70K
Average Salary
$125K
Lowest Salary
$140
Highest Salary
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$140K
Average Salary
$193K

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$40K
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$40K
Average Salary
$100K
Lowest Salary
$90K
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$90K
Average Salary
$120K
Lowest Salary
$130K
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$130K
Average Salary
$152K
Lowest Salary
$100K
Highest Salary
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$100K
Average Salary
$215K

Remote

Salaries

$0
5%
$1-$49.9K
4%
$50K-$99K
29%
$100K-$149K
28%
$150K-$199K
19%
$200K-$249K
8%
$250K-$299K
3%
$300K+
3%

Funding

$0-$999.9K
24%
$1M-$2.9M
26%
$3M-$4.9M
14%
$5M-$9.9M
17%
$10M-$49.9M
11%
$50M+
4%

Full-Time Employees

0-5 FTEs
43%
6-10 FTEs
22%
11-25 FTEs
18%
26-49 FTEs
8%
50+ FTEs
9%

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$160K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$20K
Average Salary
$96K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$750K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$8K
Average Salary
$121K
Lowest Salary
$72K
Highest Salary
$230K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$72K
Average Salary
$125K
Lowest Salary
$58K
Highest Salary
$240K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$58K
Average Salary
$140K
Lowest Salary
$49K
Highest Salary
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$49K
Average Salary
$183K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
$1M
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$65K
Average Salary
$304K

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$210K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$20K
Average Salary
$98K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$750K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$50K
Average Salary
$142K
Lowest Salary
$8K
Highest Salary
$250K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$8K
Average Salary
$132K
Lowest Salary
$70K
Highest Salary
$1M
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$70K
Average Salary
$207K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
$350K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$65K
Average Salary
$215K

Thanks for reading!

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.

We’re wishing you the best of luck with your business!

Methodology
The 2022 Founder Salary Survey was conducted over a five-week period starting in May 2022, during which we reached out to founders through our extended networks and elsewhere online. We received a total of 516 responses. Over 60% of our responses were from either remote Founders or Founders in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • What is your annual salary? (in USD)
  • What is your job title?
  • When did you start the company?
  • What city is your company principally based in?
  • How many full-time employees does your company currently have?
  • Are you bootstrapped, or has your company raised money?
  • If bootstrapped: What is your ballpark ARR/revenue run rate?
  • If VC-backed: How much money have you raised?

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