Gender pay gap narrows among startup CEOs

19 March 2020 2 min. read
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The average salary for startup CEOs in Silicon Valley rose nearly 10% to reach $142,000 in 2019, according to Kruze Consulting – an advisory firm focusing on CFO services to US startups. The report, which polled 200+ venture-funded startups, also revealed that the average female CEO salary was only $5,000 less than their male counterparts.

"This year's data indicates that startup CEOs are making around 10% more than last year, which is to be expected since funding rounds have increased in size year over year as well,” Vanessa Kruze, founder and CEO of Kruze Consulting, said. “Perhaps most importantly though is the vanishing pay gap at earlier stage companies. If women are able to raise a comparable amount of venture funding, they draw similar salaries as men. We hope this data empowers female founders to pay themselves suitably as they grow their businesses."

Growth in startup CEO salary was driven by hardware and SaaS companies, which saw massive growth in seed round sizes. Salaries for hardware CEOs rose 14% to $135,000 in 2019, while salaries for SaaS CEOs grew 7% to $121,000.

Biotech and fintech salaries remained fairly unchanged, at $147,000 and $129,000 respectively. Biotech and healthcare CEO salaries tend to be higher than in other industries because leaders often have credentials (MD, PhD) and previous experience that warrant higher pay. ECommerce CEOs, meanwhile, saw a 4% decrease in their salaries.

Startup CEO Salary by Industry

Funding size played an important role in startup CEO salaries. Startups with less than $2 million in funding saw a $5,000 increase in average salary, but companies that raised from $2 million to $5 million noticed an 8% increase in salaries.

Companies which raised $5-10 million saw salaries increase 12% to $162,000, while startups with $10 million+ in funding saw an 8% increase to $173,000.

The average female startup CEO salary was $138,000 compared to $143,000 for men – only a $5,000 difference. However, women CEOs were predominantly leading earlier stage companies, so when the researcher looked exclusively at Seed and Series A CEO salaries, the difference in pay between genders practically disappeared.

As such, there were fewer women leading later-stage startups where average salaries tend to be higher, and this largely accounted for the $5,000 gap.