February 13, 2024

Which founder’s paid the most in the startup C-suite?

It’s not the CEO

Amy Lewin

2 min read

Michelle Coventry, head of talent, Creandum

A startup founder in the CEO seat is unlikely to be the best-paid member of the company’s C-suite, finds a new report on founder compensation from European VC Creandum.

Instead, it’s founders who take up the two C-suite roles that make and manage the money who earn the most: the chief revenue officer (or chief commercial officer), and chief financial officer.

Despite holding the purse strings, few founders have been giving themselves pay rises recently, the report also found — early-stage founder salaries haven’t changed much since 2022.


The report, which also looked at founder equity and founder pay by geography, had over 700 respondents from nearly 50 cities across Europe. 16% of those surveyed were women. 

Top takeaways below. 

The CRO is the best paid member of the startup C-suite

CEOs are, on average, the fourth best-paid member of a startup C-suite.

Founder CRO/CCOs earn the highest salary — a median of €90k — followed by the CFO, earning a median of €72k. 

Next comes the CTO (€69k), CEO (median €60k) and COO (€57k).

UK founders paid the most, Baltics founders the least

UK founders pay themselves over €90k, on average, while in the Baltics it’s just over a third of that — €34k on average. 

Founders in Europe’s second largest startup ecosystems — France and Germany — have the next highest salaries.

Biggest salary jump between seed and Series A

Founders tend to get the biggest pay rise between seed and Series A. 

The median founder salary at seed is €75k, while at Series A it’s €120k (a 60% jump). That’s almost no different from 2022. 

Most founders own 15% of their company by Series A

Pre-seed founders own just short of 39% of their startups. At seed, it’s 27%. By Series A, they own just 15%.

Amy Lewin

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s editor and cohost of Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast , and writes Up Round, a weekly newsletter on VC. Follow her on X and LinkedIn