Software engineer salary negotiation
March 3, 2022

Highest Paying Tech Startups

Welcome to the second edition of our compensation insights newsletter! It’s no secret that the big tech companies can pay crazy amounts of money in 2022. But if the great resignation showed us anything, it’s that the past two pandemic years have caused a lot of big tech fatigue and burnout. Many people have asked if it’s possible to earn comparable comp working at a startup, and while most startups can’t directly match top of market rates, you’ll likely be surprised at how much some of these startups are able to pay.

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Can Startups Pay FAANG Salaries?

I’ve used senior software engineer (L5-equivalent) as the point of comparison. I'll focus on comp below, but I've included links to various write-ups if you're interested in learning more about these companies.

Airtable (Productivity Software)

  • $570K yearly comp with $225K base, $325K equity, and $80K signing
  • One of the later-stage companies on our list with an $11B Series F in December 2021 and 800 people on the team. Still, it’s known to hold a very high talent bar and the rating score from our clients at Airtable is top tier. Airtable started as a consumer company but shifted to focus on B2B four years ago. It has a track record of moving fast, though we’ve heard the pace is slowing a bit with new exec leadership + middle management
  • Valuation is high given ~$120M ARR (90x ARR multiple). That said, the company is growing at well over 100% per year, which is top quartile for a SASS companies of this size, and it has exceptional customer retention rates. One very interesting thing we've seen in negotiations is that Airtable is willing to give fixed equity grants if you're concerned about valuation (limiting the upside and downside)

Notion (Productivity Software)

  • $545K yearly comp with $200K base, $340K equity, and $20K signing
  • $10B Series C in October 2021. Still a small team with around 250 people and a heavy focus on product design. Notion has been profitable for 4 years and has recently seen huge growth in its consumer segment (in addition to its enterprise growth). It does have a unique culture, but most people love working at Notion
  • Valuation is high at 100x ARR, but Notion is also in the top quartile of SASS companies with well over 100% growth rate (expected to hit $200M ARR in 2022)

Rippling (HR Software)

  • $505K yearly comp with $240K base, $260K equity, and $30K signing
  • $6.5B Series C in October 2021 and currently has 800 employees. Rippling has a heavy emphasis on product (sometimes to the detriment of engineering quality) with lots of ex-founders at the company. Not the best WLB but tons of growth opportunities. Rippling aims to be the source of truth for all things employee-related and has impressive product breadth (10 distinct product lines with over $1M ARR each)
  • Its valuation at a 70x ARR multiple (off ~$90M ARR) doesn’t seem too crazy given the size of the market and 170% ARR growth last year

Ramp (Fintech)

  • $460K yearly comp with $200K base, $250K equity and $50K signing
  • $8B Series D in March 2022 - showing an impressive ability to raise in a much tougher 2022 market. However, Ramp does face heavy competition from older startups like Brex (a company that is old only relative to Ramp, which was founded in 2019). This team is known for fast execution above all else. Not great WLB but internal survey scores are high, and people are generally quite happy. At just 275 employees, Ramp has an excellent employee to ARR ratio (similar to Notion)
  • 80x ARR multiple makes sense given the huge 700% ARR growth last year and its current $100M ARR (check out that graph below - Ramp is the yellow logo)
Top paying startups comparison

Modern Treasury (Fintech)

  • $450K yearly comp with $190K base and $260K equity
  • $2B Series C in October 2021. Modern Treasury is one of the youngest and smallest companies on this list - it has less than 100 employees and was founded only 3 years ago. It’s also uniquely software focused (pure-play SAAS API company) in a fintech space that is very focused on being “in the money flow” and earning money by taking a cut of transactions
  • Valuation does seem high as they don’t report ARR. While its growth rate on payments volume is very impressive, that's not quite the same as ARR growth

Figma (Productivity Software)

  • $435K yearly comp with $175K base, $250K equity, and $50K signing
  • $10B Series E in June 2021. Figma has taken advantage of new WebGL tech to completely upend the design industry. It currently has 750 employees, and our clients speak very positively about the projects they work on, leadership, and low-ego team members
  • Valuation is tough to assess as they don’t often share out revenue figures. However, they did report $75M ARR in 2020 and were aiming to grow that by more than 100% in 2021. Given they raised nearly 1 year ago, I’d expect them to be currently valued at 50-60x ARR

Anduril (Defense Tech)

  • $410K yearly comp with $190K base, $210K equity, and $40K signing
  • Anduril was founded by Palmer Luckey (also founded Oculus) and raised a $4.5B Series D in July 2021. The company is currently at 600 employees and has a unique culture relative to other companies on this list (as you’d expect from defense tech)
  • ARR was $100M back in 2020 but they haven’t shared out updated figures since. This would imply a lower multiple on their July 2021 round (relative to other companies on this list), but growth is also likely lower / bumpier as government contracts are a large % of revenue

Faire (Retail)

  • $400K yearly comp with $220K base and $180K equity
  • With a $12B Series G in November 2021 Faire is the latest stage company on this list. It is also the only company in the retail space. Faire has a unique “Shopify-like” business model focused on empowering small businesses, which it does by helping them understand what their customers want to buy (heavy AI/ML focus). It has about 1000 employees and is known to be very fast paced and at times chaotic
  • No revenue information available so again valuation is tricky to judge

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or suggestions for other topics! If you found this valuable, tell your friends/colleagues to subscribe using this link.

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