What’s fair TC at startups (pre series C)? Am I being lowballed?

Uber / Eng
ABT5

Uber Eng

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Uber
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Sep 1 19 Comments

My TC at Uber was ~500k (at the time i signed the offer letter), and i’ve received comparable offers from other unicorns. Google / facebook / netflix / etc all offer around this range for senior 5b at uber.

I interviewed for some pre series C startups in LA, SF and NY but their TC offer is only around 225-250k. It’s typically around 180k salary and 0.2% ownership in the company. So for 100M company this would be 200k over 4 years, or 230k TC a year. One startup threw in a 200k one time signing bonus but I still refused.

It seems odd to me because i’m taking more risk joining an early stage startup, so shouldn’t they give me more equity than a unicorn that’s about to go public? At the time I got my Uber offer (which was a sure bet IPO company), snapchat and airbnb both offered similar TC for my level, and both of them were also sure bets for IPO.

Am I getting low balled at pre series C startups or is their TC calculation completely different? I would like to join an early stage startup but their TC offers don’t seem to make sense unless you’re an exec / founder.

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TOP 19 Comments
  • New Bzxm22
    There probably just isn’t enough equity in the pool to be dealing out single digit percents to engineers at series B. I wouldn’t necessarily consider early stage to be B, just A and seed. They already have a key team from prior rounds. You might have to target A and seed to reach the level of equity you want.

    Ninja edit: what size startups are we talking?
    Sep 1 1
    • Uber / Eng
      ABT5

      Uber Eng

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      Uber
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      OP
      Pre series C, less than 100M raised
      Sep 1
  • Microsoft Satya007
    I'm now in a startup, my base is $200k and similar equity to yours 0.18 (joined at series B). After spending 3 years, I realized I would be making much more at big companies like Google or Facebook, unless our startup sells for really high lump sum (2B). My final conclusion, financially it's less money, unless you're a founder.

    But if you're looking for joy of building something from grounds up and working on something new and executing super fast, then nothing compares to a startup. It's so damn satisfying. Very enjoyable.

    It's good experience, but I'm joining Google next month, to diversify my investments, and to get some guaranteed money instead of paper options.

    Good luck!
    Sep 1 0
  • New / Mktg
    SrZeroCool

    New Mktg

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    IBM
    SrZeroCoolmore
    What if it turned to a 1b company?
    Sep 1 2
    • Uber / Eng
      ABT5

      Uber Eng

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      Uber
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      OP
      It would need to 8x before the TC matches what I’d get at other later stage companies, that’s assuming if they ever do go IPO. Series B companies are usually 100-200M already, so I only break even if they do become a unicorn.
      Sep 1
    • New / Mktg
      SrZeroCool

      New Mktg

      PRE
      IBM
      SrZeroCoolmore
      Ask for a ton more equity and see what they say
      Sep 1
  • Uber 一一
    It is called employee financing, they bank on the fact that some people will accept a low equity offer with the hope the company will explode in the future. I have gotten many my self. In the financial sense none had made sense, but if you are willing to loose money for more fun it can be your thing
    Sep 1 0
  • Early stage startups can’t compete with Uber and won’t try to.
    Sep 1 0
  • Amazon bejji
    With limited resources, they cant spend too much one person, unless you are C-staff. You need to set your expectations right.
    Sep 1 0
  • NVIDIA heynowhey
    Yoe?
    Sep 1 1
    • Uber / Eng
      ABT5

      Uber Eng

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      Uber
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      OP
      11
      Sep 1
  • Facebook zücc4
    The best quote I’ve heard is that it’s easier to just go to FAANG for the TC and invest in startups on the side.
    Sep 2 0
  • Bossa Nova Robotics HalNTuring
    If they are pre series C then they just don't have the money. They probably under-raised.
    Sep 1 0
  • Netflix / Eng OA3
    The TC is typical. It's a gamble, if the company can get beyond 10B and IPO or get acquired, you can retire.
    Sep 1 0
  • Google SdrPikachu
    They just can't afford you.
    Sep 1 0
  • Citrix Systems / Eng ಅವನೌನ ಹಡಾ
    Tell us how much money you made by uber ipo ?
    Sep 1 3
    • Microsoft Satya007
      This
      Sep 1
    • Uber / Eng
      ABT5

      Uber Eng

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      Uber
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      OP
      We’re still in blackout period, probably 1-2M by the time I can sell
      Sep 1
    • Citrix Systems / Eng ಅವನೌನ ಹಡಾ
      Wow. Happy for you. Congratulations !! 🎊
      Sep 2

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