Report

YC Founder Salary Report 2022

A report I ran over the last 4 months *just* for YC founders.

How much should you be paying yourself?

Pilot launched its first Founder Salary Report in 2021 and received such tremendous feedback that when the time came to run the 2022 report, I was excited by the idea of creating something specific and dedicated to the YC community. As referenced in my original Bookface post, I often see YC alum asking what they should be paying themselves. While comp benchmarking reports exist for other ‘hard to define’ roles like Chief of Staff, there aren’t many reliable founder salary reports—and none I’d ever seen for YC. So today, I’m excited to share with you the results of Pilot’s new and improved Founder Salary Report for 2022 — including this specific YC edition! I 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 230 YC 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. I know you’ll enjoy this report, and I hope it’s a useful guide in discussing founder compensation with your co-founders and your board.

A final note about this report: this survey was only circulated on Bookface and email addresses were not collected. Please feel free to share this data with other YC founders, but be mindful about posting it elsewhere. 😀

Overview

Annual Salaries

Comparing salary data across all respondents, a few overall trends emerged. Founders often start with a low salary, and about 2% of our respondents pay themselves zero salary. Nearly half pay themselves less than $100,000 annually.

50%
of founders pay themselves less than $100K annually
Note: Includes zeros

Funding

Almost 83% of founders reported funding between $100K and $10M, with 37% reporting funding between $1M and $3M.

37%
of founders have reported funding between $1M to $2.9M
Note: Includes zeros

Salaries by Cohort Year

As expected, funding for earlier cohorts are higher than more recent cohorts — however, 2019’s cohort has seen almost 10% higher average funding levels than that of 2018. Similarly, we see average 2019 FTE’s slightly higher than of the 2018 cohorts. On the salary front, average salaries show less variance than funding levels with 2021 and 2022 average cohort salaries only about $50 apart.

Average Salary by Cohort Year

2018
$113K
2019
$109K
2020
$96K
2021
$91K
2022
$91K

Average Funding by Cohort Year

2018
$6.93M
2019
$7.66M
2020
$5.15M
2021
$3.67M
2022
$2.44M

Average FTE by Cohort Year

2018
18
2019
21
2020
15
2021
9
2022
5

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 $1M and $5M in funding, with over 55% falling into this range.

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level*

Lowest Salary
$120K
Highest Salary
Remote
$130K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
LA
$120K
Average Salary
$125K
Lowest Salary
$36K
Highest Salary
NYC
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
San Francisco
$36K
Average Salary
$90K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$290K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$8K
Average Salary
$95K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
Remote
$210K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Boston
$65K
Average Salary
$120K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$289K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$72K
Average Salary
$132K
Lowest Salary
$58K
Highest Salary
Remote
$325K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$58K
Average Salary
$169K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$301K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$65K
Average Salary
$205K
*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 13% 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
Remote
$210K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
San Francisco
$36K
Average Salary
$98K
Lowest Salary
$41K
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$190K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Other US
$41K
Average Salary
$105K
Lowest Salary
$8K
Highest Salary
Remote
$250K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$8K
Average Salary
$124K
Lowest Salary
$75K
Highest Salary
San Francisco
$301K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$75K
Average Salary
$169K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
Remote
$325K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
Remote
$65K
Average Salary
$189K

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.

Over 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

$117K
Remote
$92K
LA Area
$112K
NYC Area
$123K
SF Bay Area

Breakdown of Salaries by Geography

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$301K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$36K
Average Salary
$123K
Lowest Salary
$50K
Highest Salary
$225K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$50K
Average Salary
$112K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
$120K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$65K
Average Salary
$92K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$325K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$8K
Average Salary
$117K
Lowest Salary
$41K
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$41K
Average Salary
$97K
Lowest Salary
$52K
Highest Salary
$135K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$52K
Average Salary
$70K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$140K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$12K
Average Salary
$61K
Other US
Includes Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa, Washington DC, 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
3%
$1-$49.9K
3%
$50K-$99K
30%
$100K-$149K
36%
$150K-$199K
20%
$200K-$249K
2%
$250K-$299K
5%
$300K+
2%

Funding

$0-$999.9K
15%
$1M-$2.9M
30%
$3M-$4.9M
16%
$5M-$9.9M
15%
$10M+
18%

Full-Time Employees

0-5 FTEs
49%
6-10 FTEs
18%
11-25 FTEs
16%
26+ FTEs
15%

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level

Lowest Salary
$36K
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$36K
Average Salary
$67K
Lowest Salary
$60K
Highest Salary
$290K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$60K
Average Salary
$103K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$116K
Average Salary
$131K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$289K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$80K
Average Salary
$156K
Lowest Salary
$120K
Highest Salary
$301K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$120K
Average Salary
$175K

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$36K
Average Salary
$90K
Lowest Salary
$85K
Highest Salary
$190K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$85K
Average Salary
$128K
Lowest Salary
$80K
Highest Salary
$200K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$80K
Average Salary
$148K
Lowest Salary
$100K
Highest Salary
$301K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$100K
Average Salary
$198K

New York City Area

Salaries

$0
0%
$1-$49.9K
0%
$50K-$99K
38%
$100K-$149K
42%
$150K-$199K
15%
$200K-$249K
4%
$250K-$299K
0%
$300K+
0%

Funding

0-$2.9M
62%
$3M-$9.9M
31%
$10M+
8%

Full-Time Employees

0-5 FTEs
54%
6-10 FTEs
27%
11-25 FTEs
12%
26+ FTEs
8%

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level

Lowest Salary
$50K
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$50K
Average Salary
$102K
Lowest Salary
$70K
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$70K
Average Salary
$115K
Lowest Salary
$140K
Highest Salary
$225K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$140K
Average Salary
$183K

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$50K
Highest Salary
$180K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$50K
Average Salary
$98K
Lowest Salary
$90K
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$90K
Average Salary
$114K
Lowest Salary
$130K
Highest Salary
$150K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$130K
Average Salary
$140K
Lowest Salary
$100K
Highest Salary
$225K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$100K
Average Salary
$163K

Remote

Salaries

$0
1%
$1-$49.9K
4%
$50K-$99K
35%
$100K-$149K
33%
$150K-$199K
19%
$200K-$249K
3%
$250K-$299K
3%
$300K+
3%

Funding

$0-$999K
13%
$1M-$2.9M
39%
$3M-$4.9M
19%
$5M-$9.9M
14%
$10M-$49.9M
9%
$50M+
3%

Full-Time Employees

0-5 FTEs
48%
6-10 FTEs
23%
11-25 FTEs
19%
26-49 FTEs
5%
50+ FTEs
6%

Breakdown of Salaries by Funding Level

Lowest Salary
$50K
Highest Salary
$160K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$50K
Average Salary
$121K
Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$170K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$8K
Average Salary
$92K
Lowest Salary
$72K
Highest Salary
$210K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$72K
Average Salary
$120K
Lowest Salary
$72K
Highest Salary
$200K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$72K
Average Salary
$130K
Lowest Salary
$58K
Highest Salary
$325K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$58K
Average Salary
$205K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
$250K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$65K
Average Salary
$158K

Breakdown of Salaries by Full-Time Employees

Lowest Salary
$0
Highest Salary
$210K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$40K
Average Salary
$107K
Lowest Salary
$50K
Highest Salary
$170K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$50K
Average Salary
$101K
Lowest Salary
$8K
Highest Salary
$250K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$8K
Average Salary
$123K
Lowest Salary
$75K
Highest Salary
$300K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$75K
Average Salary
$181K
Lowest Salary
$65K
Highest Salary
$325K
Lowest Non-Zero Salary
$65K
Average Salary
$172K

Thanks for reading!

I hope this report gives you a good sense of what other YC founders are doing for salaries, and that it serves as a useful guide in discussing founder compensation with your cofounders and investors.

I’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.

Thanks again, YC founders, for helping me put this together and allowing me to share it with you!

Methodology
The 2022 YC Founder Salary Survey was conducted over a five-week period starting in July May 2022, during which I posted on Bookface asking founders to fill out the survey. I received a total of 230 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 YC batch are you part of?
  • What city is your company principally based in?
  • How many full-time employees does your company currently have?
  • How much money have you raised?
  • Anything else we should know?
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