Welcome to the first edition of the Start-Up Founder Compensation Survey – powered by Graphy.
At Seedcamp, this question comes up time and time again and we struggled to find any reliable data. As a consequence, the purpose of this survey is to provide a clear set of results, based on peer data, absent of bias, for free. A starting point for founders to construct a compelling case to empower their position, especially for those from diverse backgrounds, not an investor-led set of guidelines. More #powertothefounder
I would like to extend thanks and congratulations to Graphy, a Seedcamp company, for the awesome charts and their recent launch!
I would also like to thank the other funds who contributed their data outside of the Seedcamp Nation to help provide insight, namely Anthemis, Notion Capital, and BackedVC (if anyone else’s companies contributed please let me know and I’ll add you here!)
We collected a number of variables from the companies that submitted the survey including: Annual Salary; Equity % Held; Company Revenue; Last Round Type; Last Round Size; Number of Co-Founders; Number of Employees; Years in Operation; Geographical Location (HQ); Office Status (Office, Hybrid, Remote)
Please find the forex rates used at the time of generating the charts here.
We have spent countless hours digesting all this data and comparing and contrasting these variables together on hundreds of charts. The conclusion was that only a few variables showed any reliable impact on founder salary or equity. These variables were:
Fascinatingly, traditional indicators associated with company and consequent founder success, such as revenue, number of employees, etc. had zero correlation to the amount of salary or equity that founders held. We will present this data following the main results if you wish to explore for your own interest, but it raises a huge question as to what KPIs founders should be working towards as an indicator for their success, to leverage during compensation reviews with investors and their Board in the early stages of company building.
I had a chat with our Partner, Tom Wilson, to discuss how we look at assessing a founder’s compensation.
There is no one size fits all, other than initial factors such as round size, Tom said that most founders know that they are going to sacrifice short term earnings (salary) in order to allocate capital to different company assets that enable growth, such as hiring, technology, infrastructure, etc. However, it is important that the founder’s personal circumstances come into play.
It is rare that we will get involved unless there are extreme outliers, such as not paying anything or too little, or overpaying, creating unsustainable conditions for the founder or company alike. However, we prefer to massively incentivise early-stage founders to hold equity, as that’s where the long-term gain comes from and ultimately where founders will see the most value when wanting to build and scale a start-up, but also earning above their breadline so that they’re comfortable and able to live. It is important that investors help to “create the best environment for excellence to thrive”, not overpaid so that equity is undervalued, but not so stressed by personal liquidity problems that short-term decision making can be skewed. It is clear to see that when you can remove any negative emotions held on these external factors, it massively increases an individual’s personal performance and the consequential likelihood of success towards the overall mission objective.
The below charts are interactive, please hover your mouse over the charts to highlight specifics.
The biggest trend and indicator of founder compensation came down to the funding round. Based on this data, as you go through fundraising rounds, expect your salary to increase and your equity to go down.
Between funding rounds, you can expect to see a salary increase of circa (to the whole number):
Equity decrease of circa (to the whole number):
Looking at the geographical data, the country holding the most founder compensation is the US followed by the UK however the majority of the data came from these two areas. So, we broke down the data into continent buckets to provide a better comparison:
Clearly, North America leads the way on salary, however, it is clear to see that equity across ecosystems is relatively level.
This is quite an interesting one, as per the salary chart, the solo founder holds great earning power, apart from at Seed, which, other than that outlier, behaves as expected with increasing founder numbers.
Equity is more logical, with the solo founder holding the highest amount of equity at Pre-Seed and Seed, then balancing out at Series A. However, it is important to note that only one founder from each company filled out this survey in 99% of the cases, so this is only indicative of one founders compensation, not the entire founding team.
As mentioned in the introduction, for those interested in looking at some more of the data, I was surprised to see that some of these variables had no seeming impact on salary or a huge spread in the data across the set.
The chart above shows the average salary by company revenue. Whilst there is an evident slope towards the upper limit at the end of the chart, the variance between this is huge and if the outlier spike at £186.99k salary and £10.42m ARR was absent, that slope would be even more gradual.
So, very interestingly, from the data we have and the variables measured, between Pre-Seed and Series A, the proportionate increase of salary when prepared to increase in revenue is low, not taking into account other cash incentives such as bonus or dividend payments.
Interesting insight showing that as per the above chart looking at general revenue, when you break revenue down by continent, European and UK ecosystems seem to follow a general pattern of revenue and salary increasing together, but no consistency in the US.
Based on the above chart, the trend would indicate that the more revenue your company earns, the more equity you lose!
The number of employees by annual salary also presents a steady slope increase and an interesting spread of data. The lowest number of employees is 3 and the greatest is 341, with the same range on salary as mentioned above.
As you can see from the spread, whilst there is a general increase, it doesn’t appear to be reliable for founders as a variable to assign salary.
I was really looking forward to seeing how office status impacted compensation, if at all. Interesting to see that none of the Series A companies surveyed are purely office-based, perhaps indicative of launching during the pandemic. But if we look at the above, other than equity at Seed, it appears that being purely office-based doesn’t pay off!
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read through the findings of the survey, I hope it is truly useful to founders when wanting to have informed and powerful conversations about their compensation.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the findings and if there are any other variables you would like us to consider when looking at the next survey.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
FinTech + France = a winning combination. While financial services continues to be one of our most active sectors at Seedcamp, the wave of exceptional entrepreneurial talent emerging from France is also a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
Just six months after leading their initial €1.2M round, we’re very excited to double down on our support in Alfred and Samuel, co-founders of Yavin, to supercharge their in-store payment platform and accelerate international development alongside New Wave.
Founded in 2020, Yavin has been reinventing the in-store payment experience for local businesses. Co-founders Samuel Manassé (CEO), former CEO of SumUp challenger Smile&Pay, and Alfred Bourély (CTO) created Yavin to empower SMBs and help merchants get the best service, at the best price, while keeping freedom and control. With its no-commitment transparent offer, Yavin wants to free local shops from hidden fees and lock-in contracts of banks. For a monthly subscription fee, merchants can accept all payments (including contactless, QR-codes, crypto, pay-in-3, etc.), connect Yavin to their existing PoS system, and benefit from competitive transaction fees.
Samuel Manassé, CEO and Co-founder of Yavin, comments: “Merchants were forced to use outdated solutions for years. At Yavin, we are building with our customers and partners the in-store payment solution they have been waiting for. Payment will evolve enormously over the next few years. We will be at the side of merchants, so they can benefit from the next revolution”.
Yavin launched its first offer in France, bringing on board 1,000 retailers in just a few months. With this additional funding, Yavin will develop new features for businesses and integrate with all leading in-store tools while also strengthening its international presence, starting with Europe.
Yavin’s terminals are based on new-gen Android devices, which will rapidly replace the historical fleet of traditional card readers. Just like with a smartphone, merchants can install a full suite of apps directly on their terminal (payment, loyalty apps, PoS tools, etc.).
“Our open architecture enables third-party software publishers to develop applications directly on Yavin payment terminals. We have an ever-growing list of partners and will eventually integrate with all the best solutions on the market” Alfred Bourély, CTO of Yavin, explains.
Yavin manages all the technical aspects of payment, so merchants can provide the best experience to their customers. Beyond payment, Yavin offers a personalized customer-experience platform for businesses to get closer to their customers. Among others, Yavin enables retailers to:
Far from being a simple service provider, Yavin is positioned as a partner to merchants, working hand in hand with businesses to meet their needs. We are excited to see their solution grow as they bring more merchants on board and give them the freedoms to build their businesses their own way.
For more information visit https://yavin.com/.
Gaming has become the pinnacle of media. It’s where art meets technical brilliance. At Seedcamp, we believe that gaming is the future of entertainment and, over the past few years, we’ve made bets to double-down on this conviction, partnering with companies like Sorare, PortalOne, GDevelop.
While we’ve made investments in gaming, never before have we dipped our feet into the world of gaming studios…until now! We are incredibly excited to back Mark Warrick, Fox Rogers, and Matt Hyde, co-founders of Cauldron, as they debut their sci-fi project in Web3 gaming.
Cauldron was labeled as one of FinTech’s best-kept secrets when, last summer, the gaming studio spun out of the fintech unicorn Thought Machine. Their then-Chief Design Officer, Mark, announced he was moving on after seven years to start Cauldron alongside a founding team including the award-winning creative force of Fox Rogers, who worked at Thought Machine as a Design Director, and BAFTA-nominated games director Matt Hyde. Cauldron’s CTO, Matthew Newcombe, has also been in the games industry for over 10 years, having worked at ustwo games, Rare, and King, where he worked on Monument Valley 2, Assemble with Care, and Halo.
“Our studio is fostering a worldbuilding-led approach which puts emotive storytelling at the forefront of the experience. It could not be better timing – a new audience is emerging that is looking for the next big Web3 experience where players can participate and own parts of a universe they love,” Fox said. “At Cauldron, we have a history of working in markets where our emotive art and storytelling has a dramatic impact on our products – and this project is no different.”
We are excited to back this exceptional team in an oversubscribed $1.4M round with Cauldron’s existing investors IQ Capital and Playfair Capital. Cauldron is not short of wider industry expertise either, having appointed Alex Brunicki from Backed VC as their advisor alongside a strong angel support base which includes Kieran Hill (20VC), Carmen Alfonso Rico (Cocoa), and Vinoth Jayakumar (Molten Ventures).
“At Seedcamp, we backed Sorare early and boldly, stating it would become one of the first mass crypto games,” Seedcamp Partner Sia Houchangnia states. “We know gaming will be one of the main drivers behind mainstream crypto adoption and are thrilled to have found yet another world-class team in Cauldron who have a strong market vision for a Web3 gaming niche that we have not seen to date and we are delighted to be supporting them at the start of their journey.”
For more information or to contact Cauldron, visit https://cauldron.co/
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