April 2, 2024

How much are European deeptech executives paid?

Until their companies reach Series B, most deeptech executives earn less than €100k

Businessman giving cheque to colleague.

Thanks to sustained VC interest and strong support from governments, European deeptech startups are growing fast — but just how much are founders and C-level executives bringing home at the end of the month?

European VC XAnge has surveyed 300 executives in various leadership roles — such as CEOs, CTOs, CFOs, R&D and sales leaders — within European deeptech startups to find out exactly what their compensation package looks like at different stages of the company’s life.

It found that in early-stage startups — those that have closed a seed or Series A round — most deeptech executives have an annual median salary of under €100k. But once a company reaches late-stage (from Series B and beyond) compensation packages see a huge boost. 


CEOs’ salaries at late-stage spikes to a median €245k, while sales leaders can expect up to €275k — more than twice the median salary for the same position at the same stage across startups in other sectors.  

“The few startups that manage to get to the later stages can offer a real jump in compensation,” says Guilhem de Vregille, partner at XAnge, who led the study.

The majority of the survey’s respondents (73%) were based in France, followed by the UK and Germany. The data collected reflects packages offered by startups that haven’t raised any money yet, all the way up to companies that have raised more than €50m — in many different sub-sectors of deeptech, ranging from healthcare to industry through advanced computing and energy.

These are the key learnings from the report.

Starting small

Although some deeptech startups, largely in AI, make headlines by raising huge amounts of capital just weeks after launching, that’s not the reality for most founders.

“What’s more accurate is that many smaller companies start with two or three founders working on the tech without having raised a seed or Series A yet, and remunerating themselves around €60k,” says De Vregille.

The report shows these founding teams typically include a CEO, a CTO and a science or R&D leader, paid between €60-65k. Funding can come from public subsidies, loans or initial angel investments.

Structuring the C-level team

“Once the seed or Series A has been raised, a first layer of the C-level team emerges, with salaries increasing towards €70-100k,” says De Vregille.

The median annual salary for CEOs at C-level is €96k — roughly on par with the median €100k salary that XAnge’s data shows to be standard across the rest of the European startup ecosystem at seed and Series A.

Science and R&D leaders — who are critical for the development of a deeptech company in its earlier stages — have the highest median salary at that point, at €105k, according to XAnge. 

This is also when the company usually hires operations and sales leaders, both with compensation packages of just under €80k. 


“With deeptech, there is some time before the technology is mature enough to reach the market,” says De Vregille. “At the early stage, sales is more about representing the company when there isn’t yet a product to sell.”

The late-stage boom

For the companies that make it post-Series B, things accelerate dramatically.

CEOs, who are often recruited externally to scale the company, see their salaries more than double to a median €245k — about 60% more than the median late-stage CEO salary across the rest of the ecosystem. CFOs, science and R&D leaders and operations leaders also receive a pay bump to €185k. 

The most impressive jump, however, is that of sales leaders, whose compensation packages more than triple to a median €275k — more than twice as much as their peers in other sectors. 

Sales leaders also all reported receiving cash bonuses, which at late stage represent an additional €73k on average.

“Many sales in deeptech are US recruits, and when you recruit from the US, it is rare to see compensation under €200k,” says De Vergille.

“Another reason for this jump is that deeptech sales are usually fewer but much larger, and to big accounts. It’s different to a digital company, for example, where you make lots of regular sales for a €1-2k product.”

What about equity?

As with all startups, equity is a significant part of the compensation package in deeptech.

The vast majority (72%) of early-stage leaders are compensated with equity. R&D leaders, CTOs and operations leaders — who are usually reflective of the founding team — garner the most substantial equity allocations.

Finance and sales leaders, who tend to join the company at later stages, receive between 0.5-2% of the company in options — but the value of their equity is likely to be significant due to the increased valuation of the company.

Which deeptech sub-sectors pay best?

AI may be stealing the spotlight at the moment, but XAnge found that it’s far from offering compensation levels as high as other, more established areas. 

Across all stages and C-level functions, the annual median salary in advanced computing stands at €77k — which compares to €117k in healthcare and €133k in industrial biotech and new materials.

“I doubt that any executive at Mistral AI is paid under €100k, because they have the financial power to do it,” says De Vergille, “but it’s not representative of the ecosystem.”

Do European deeptech startups pay enough?

Attracting and retaining talent is critical to the success of deeptech startups — and the best way to do so is to offer competitive compensation packages.

De Vregille says that companies can poach talent from three main pools: other startups, large industrial groups and US tech giants.

“If you’re competing against other European startups, you’re usually offering similar packages. Similarly, you can compete on salary against industrial groups, with the advantage of offering a different culture and a new challenge,” says De Vregille.

“When it comes to US companies, however, there is still a big difference. Especially on technologies like AI, they will be offering perhaps 1.8 times what you are.”

De Vregille says that European deeptech startups are more likely to be able to lure talent from US tech companies at later stages. 

At seed and Series A, compensation packages remain too small. “Early-stage companies would benefit from being able to offer higher salaries and to attract more expensive candidates,” says De Vregille. “But that means raising bigger rounds.”

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a reporter for Sifted based in Paris and covering French tech. You can find her on X and LinkedIn