I'm in Silicon Valley, and just got an offer from a Series A startup at a rate below my current salary (they offered 140k, my current is 155k).  At their valuation I'll vest (according to them, I don't have insight into this) 480k over 4 years, vs 365,550 at my current company.  With the caveat that I'd probably get a stock refresher if I stay at my current job worth about 96k.

How concerned should I be about the base salary cut if my equity is higher.  Is it typical to get lower salaries at startups?  How should I let them know about my concerns? (they didn't ask for my current salary)


Edwin's picture

First, some startups have a salary cap.  For all you know $140K may be the cap.  

Second, are you getting stock (e.g. restricted stock) or stock options.  There is a difference.  Do you currently have stock or options in your current employer.  Big companies have generally moved to RSU.  

You should not be too concerned with the lower salaries especially if it is generally known that is is the cap.  

I think you may be asking the wrong question.  Do you like your current job? Is the new opportunity signficanly better in terms of experience?  What do you think of the future?  I seriously doubt this is going to come down to $15K salary.


jrb3's picture
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Start-ups are new businesses just starting up.  They normally don't have much money;  it's typical to have delayed compensation such as stock gains and the like instead, so they can put their money into creating a viable business.  Depending on how early you are at a start-up, you might not get any salary at all!

You say nothing about what non-work responsibilities you have, where you are in your career, what your personality is like, and what your current and potential duties will be.  If you need stability of salary, and at present level -- mortgage and kids, personal inclination -- stay away from startups.  If you have lots of success under your belt leading teams and creating / selling / marketing products, and want to help grow a business, start-ups are great fun, great heartaches, and very rewarding.  (I'd not miss my start-up experiences for the world.)

Find a friend already at a start-up, or someone more experienced you trust, and ask these questions.  They should be able to help you ask yourself relevant questions to determine whether start-up work fits who you are right now.

Good luck!