So recently I’ve had conversations with several VPs and senior Directors at leading tech companies.

I almost never ask anyone how much they make.  I don’t care and it’s not me.  But in this case, I was talking with folks thinking of making the jump to startups.  Usually more scale-ups, at $20m+ ARR or later.  But looking to make the jump.

So I took the chance to ask how much they make today, in today’s environment.  None worked at OpenAI or the handful of public companies on massive stock tears.  No, they all worked at slightly more mature SaaS leaders.

And one way or another, they all made about $800,000 a year working at big, public SaaS / Cloud companies as senior but still mid-level managers.

Base salaries varied.  Some was in RSUs (not options), which are basically guaranteed cash if you stay.  Some was in bonus.  Some was discretionary.  But add it all together, at least 6 folks I talked to made $800,000 a year, plus or minus, more or less.

Now obviously in theory you can make far more if you joined Datadog pre-IPO, or Cloudflare a few years back, or Planatir in the early days.  Of course you can make millions and millions in the right senior role at the hottest startups.  Or even today, at certain leaders post-IPO, at the very top especially.

But when you go to hire a VP that was a seasoned Director or just above at a public SaaS company, that’s likely the bar to compete with.

So if you want to pay them say $140k plus some equity to take a risk:

  • First, make sure first that’s a fair ask.
  • Second, that they can really do it (many can’t).
  • And third, that you know what they are giving up.

This is especially true at SaaS leaders where growth has slowed.  If the stock price is flat, but the cash flow is strong (many are very profitable today), they know for the best, they have to pay up in cash.  And they do.

Can you really compete here?  And do you even want to, other than for the very best candidates?  Probably only for the very, very best.   Let the rest self select out.

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