Startup Compensation

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been on the hunt for some good equity compensation data for startup employees, particularly those employees beyond the top handful of executives.  Prof. Noam Wasserman conducts an annual survey of compensation in startups, which is incredibly useful, however it only covers the top 10 or so positions in each company.  Over the past month or so, I have spoken with many different companies that compile comp data a number of which purport to have equity information, but it turns out that all but one have either very thin coverage or incomplete information (for example, one firm did a survey asking how many options each position had, but failed to ask how many shares on a fully diluted basis were in the company).

The one exception I found to this is a company out in California called .  In fact, Noam put me on to these folks and the founder/CEO, Dee DiPietro, was kind enough to spend a couple hours talking with me and giving a demo.  The company has survey information from several hundred VC backed startups for many positions.  The data is very well organized and from my 30 minutes or so poking around, seems to have enough coverage to be useful.  If you’re a startup and you contribute your company’s data to the pot, then you get access to the exec comp data free and the rest of it for a nominal fee.

Here’s why I think this is important.  When granting equity options, most startups use some fairly well established rules of thumb or even survey data for the top executive positions, but grants to the rest of the team are usually done with a one-size-fits all rule or some other random method and the result is that some equity is "wasted" on those who don’t value it and others are demotivated by being under compensated.  I think the key is to get the equity compensation for "middle management" right, i.e. Directors and Sr. Managers.  This is where the data from Advanced HR comes in handy as they have coverage on these positions.

So my recommendation is to get as much comp data as you can when designing your equity pool and making grants.