How Much Should Founders Pay Themselves?

And how much I paid myself at my last startup

How much do you pay yourself, as a founder?

It can be a sensitive question, but it has major implications for your startup’s cashflow and your personal stress levels.

I was shocked to find that very little has been written about this online. It seems like a topic where experienced founders and investors could share best practices.

So I put together a quick guide (including some industry benchmarks and what I paid myself when I was running my last startup) 👇

A Guide to Founder (Cash) Compensation

What Info Is Out There Today?

I assumed that most of the well known sources for founder info would have guides about this, but they don’t:

  • AngelList’s blog has nothing on the topic.

  • Carta’s annual startup compensation report only mentions the word “founder” twice, both times in the intro.

  • Even Pave, a compensation benchmarking platform for startups that puts together their own annual report, doesn’t mention founders.

As a result, much of this piece is based on 1:1 conversations and my own experience talking with hundreds of founders over the years.

However, I stumbled onto this extensive report by Kruze Consulting that has a helpful calculator. We’ll dive more into it shortly.

There’s also this newsletter post, but it exclusively discusses founders who’ve been at their startup for over 5 years already.

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