Startup founders from the CEE pay themselves the least — report on founder salaries in Europe

Creandum has created Europe’s largest database on early-stage founders’ compensation. With the help of Slush’s diverse community, the firm spoke to almost 650 entrepreneurs across 47 European cities from 8 regions. Ultimately, the report tries to answer what compensation is “normal” for the founder’s businesses. AIN.Capital shares the key points of the report.

Key takeaways from the survey:

  • Founder salaries are higher in more advanced ecosystems, with the UK out in front.
  • There’s a big gender pay gap in super early-stage startups — but it’s there throughout.
  • The number of co-founders is the single biggest diluter of equity.
  • Fintech continues to be the stand-out, in terms of how much founders get paid.

Founders’ salaries by stage and funding:

  • On average, bootstrapped and pre-seed founder salaries are around €50,000. By Series B the amount reaches almost €150,000. Straying very far above these salaries can be a red flag for investors, particularly in the earliest stages.
Image: Creandum
  • For companies that have raised up to €1 million, the average founder salary is below €50,000. However, once a company has accumulated over €50 million, founder salaries are around €155,000 on average.
Image: Creandum

Salaries by location and industry:

  • At pre-seed and seed stages, location has little to no impact on salary. But from Series A onwards, it’s all about the UK, where founders make almost €70,000 more than founders in any other region. While the lowest salaries are in the Baltics and CEE, these countries generally have a lower cost of living.
Image: Creandum
  • When it comes to industry-specifics, salaries at Pre-Seed and Seed stages don’t really differ too much from industry to industry. But after reaching Series A rounds, it’s fintech founders who take home the most, earning an average of €160,000.
Image: Creandum

Gendered pay gap:

  • There is a significant pay gap at the seed stage, with female founders taking home €15,000 less than their male counterparts. On average, early-stage female founders who raised €1–3 million earn about 25–30% less than male founders. This gap grows even more with higher funding, only starting to level out above the €50 million mark.
Image: Creandum

The number of co-founders tends to dilute the salary:

  • The biggest equity diluter is how many co-founders you bring along. Choosing who and how many people to work with on the idea is a fundamental decision for the early-stage founders that affects their pay throughout the startup’s growth.
Image: Creandum

About Creandum

Creandum is a Swedish early-stage venture capital firm backing the companies of tomorrow. The firm has backed Europe’s most successful tech companies including Spotify, iZettle, Depop, Klarna, KRY, Epidemic Sound, and Small Giant Games.