Startup Engineering Salaries

Part
01
of seven
Part
01

Start-up Salary Information (1)

According to Glassdoor, a general and average salary for a machine learning engineer is approximately $140,000 with additional experience garnering higher payment (up to ~$178,000). Two startups in the San Francisco Bay Area that have advertised for senior machine learning engineers have ranges associated with the postings from $77K-$119K to $140K-$180K with 0.4% equity. More details about these ranges are provided below.

Senior Machine Learning Engineer/Scientist

  • When adjusted for the “Internet & Tech” industry as well as 4-6 years of experience, the Glassdoor average salary information (which was last updated on November 13, 2019) for a machine learning engineer was $141,601. The high end was $178,000 and the low end was $99,000. (Please note that for this more general estimate, using the tech-based startup salary ranges seemed appropriate given tech startups’ contribution to the overall economy and startup growth trends.)
  • A senior machine learning engineer based in Simi Valley, CA and working for AeroVironment (an American defense contractor founded in 1971) is required to have at least 4 years of experience and is estimated to make between $109,000 and $195,000 ($150,382 was the average).
  • Entefy, an AI communication technology startup founded in 2012 in Palo Alto, CA, requests 5+ years of experience and a relevant PhD for its open senior machine learning engineer position. Glassdoor estimates the salary range to be between $77,000-$119,000; the average was estimated at $96,556. Please note that Glassdoor estimates are based on job and company-specific attributes and data.
  • Grabango, a startup that ran Series A funding in January 2019, which focuses on building the ultimate shopper experience using computer vision, advertised for a full-time senior machine learning engineer in Berkeley, CA. Requirements included 5+ years experience and a PhD or equivalent industry experience. The salary range provided for the position was $140K-$180K with 0.4% equity.

Additional Data

  • Similar positions and their salaries: big data engineer ($163,250), data architect ($141,250), data scientist ($125,250), data modeler ($101,750), developer/programmer analyst ($108,500), and software engineer ($125,750).
Part
02
of seven
Part
02

Start-up Salary Information (2)

The average salary for Embedded Software Engineers with 5 or more years of experience varies greatly on whether we look at the United States average or more specific to California and the San Francisco area. The requested region of the United States as well as a focus on San Francisco, CA has been made in this research. To give further depth to the information, equity options were included with the AngelList salaries, however AngelList does not allow filtering by years of experience.

General Salary Ranges

  • According to PayScale, Embedded Software Engineers with 5-9 years of experience make an average of $89,648 in the United States, and an average of $118,991 in San Francisco, CA.
  • IoT Engineers make an average of $168,970 in the United States and $222,956 in California, according to Indeed.

Startup Salary Ranges

  • Startup Software Engineers with 5-6 years of experience in the United States have a salary range from $84,859-$128,885, with a median salary of $107,627. The same engineer in San Francisco, CA would have a salary range from $106,329-$161,492, with the median being $134,857, according to Salary.com.
  • AngelList gives an average salary for a Startup Software Engineer in the United States as $95,000 with 925 out of 1659 jobs including an equity of 0.25-2.4%. In San Francisco, a Startup Software Engineer is shown to make an average of $130,000 with 154 out of 245 jobs including a 0.25-2.4% equity.

Examples of Startup Salaries

  • On AngelList there is a position open for an IoT Engineer, with 1-3 years of experience, for a company in San Francisco with 1-10 employees, the salary is $93,000-$95,000 with an equity of 0.25-0.4%.
  • A job listing for a Firmware Engineer, with 4 or more years of experience, is also found on AngelList, the company is in San Francisco with 11-50 employees, the salary is $110,000-$130,000 with a 0.1-0.2% equity.
  • A position for a Senior Embedded Software Engineer with 4 or more years of experience, shown on AngelList, with a company of 11-50 employees in San Francisco, has a salary of $130,000-$150,000 with a 0.0-0.2% equity.
Part
03
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Part
03

Start-up Salary Information (3)

We were able to find salaries (through job posts) for Backend Engineers with three or more years of experience at startups in the U.S., as well as the average salary for Backend Engineers at startups in three locations across the U.S. (though not specific to years of experience due to filter limitations, as is explained below). The in-line citations provided in the "Examples of Startup Salaries" section link to Google Docs because we had to take screenshots of the job posts we found (since the URLs didn't directly link to those respective job listings). In both sections of our research findings, we provided examples from different locations in the U.S. to account for potential regional variances in compensation.

Examples of Startup Salaries

1. Manticore Games

  • A California startup called Manticore Games was recently hiring for a Backend Engineer.
  • The position required "5 years of backend development experience in the gaming industry."
  • The salary for the position was stated as "up to $200,000 + equity."

2. VinAudit

3. Search Firm/Big Data

  • A search firm called CyberCoders was recently hiring for a Senior Backend Engineer "at a fast-growing Big Data Startup" in Chicago.
  • The position required at least five years of experience.
  • The salary for the position ranged from $125,000 to $155,000.

Backend Engineer Salary Scale

  • We also found a pay scale provided by the startup source AngelList of salaries for Backend Engineers. One limitation of this resource was that we could not filter the salaries based on years of experience. However, it's reasonable to assume that the average salaries (which we provided below) are ones that would require somewhere around three or more years of experience because it's generally true that compensation increases with experience (and the average salary accounts for both the low and high ends of the salary range).
  • Accordingly, the examples provided below are the average salaries at U.S. startups that have posted jobs for Backend Engineers through AngelList, but years of experience was not a filter option for further refining the salary data. Nonetheless, we included this information because of it's direct applicability to the subject matter of our research and because the average salary is likely indicative of positions that would require somewhere around three or more years of experience (per the previously provided reasoning). In further support thereof, the average salaries listed below align with the salaries provided in the "Examples of Startup Salaries" section above for Backend Engineer positions that required three or more years of experience.
  • The average salary for a Backend Engineer in Silicon Valley is $134,000.
  • In New York City, the average salary for a Backend Engineer is $122,000.
  • The average salary for a Backend Engineer in Chicago is $119,000.
  • In Texas, the average salary for a Backend Engineer is $112,000.
Part
04
of seven
Part
04

Start-up Salary Information (4)

After an extensive search through job portal websites, RF engineering companies' websites, and industry statistic portals, details about the salary of an RF networking engineer with 3+ years of experience at a startup do not appear to be available in the public domain. However, the research team was able to gather valuable insights into the general salary levels of an RF engineer in the United States and also at select startups. These salaries, however, do not distinguish between the various experience levels.

Helpful Findings

Startups Hiring for the Position

Astranis

ActionStreamer

Research Strategy

The research team, after exhaustive research, was unable to find data around the salary levels of an RF network engineer with 3+ years of experience at a startup. This is likely due to the niche and confidential nature of the information and therefore companies have not disclosed it in the public domain. The research team began its search by scouring through various job portals such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, Payscale, etc and some startups specific portals like AngelList to hunt for general salary information of an RF engineer with 3+years experience at a startup. However, all the information found on these portals, regarding the salary levels of an RF engineer, was at a national level and did not distinguish between the various experience levels.

The research team then tried to triangulate the information by searching for various job openings for an RF engineer at US startups, specifically for 3+ years of experience. The idea was to use the salary offered by these startups as a proxy for the national average. The research team was able to successfully identify a couple of relevant job openings for an RF engineer at US startups (Astranis & ActionStreamer) but none of these provided the salary for 3+ years of experience specifically. Similarly, the job openings found at other portals were either for established companies or again did not furnish the salary for 3+ years of experience specifically.
Part
05
of seven
Part
05

Start-up Salary Information (5)

The salary for robotics engineers working at startups in the United States ranges from $80,000 to $160,000 annually depending on job requirements, candidate experience, and education.

Built Robotics

  • Built Robotics is a heavy equipment robotics company in San Francisco, California. According to Angel, the company has raised $48,000,000 in funding as of September 2019.
  • The startup has two open positions in robotics engineering. The first is for a full-time Robotics Engineer and the other for a full-time Senior Robotics Engineer.
  • Its job description calls for a robotics engineer with two or more years of experience, controls experience, and mechanical engineering experience. According to Angel, the salary range for this position is between $105,000 and $155,000 annually.
  • For a Senior Robotics Engineer at Built Robotics, five or more years of experience, controls experience, and mechanical engineering experience is required. Angel estimates the position salary between $100,000 to $160,000 annually.

Fulfil Solutions

  • Fulfil Solutions is mechanical design, automation, and robotics startup based in Redwood City, California.
  • The startup is currently seeking a robotics engineer who has a minimum of three years of experience in controlling automation equipment and an educational background in mechanical engineering.
  • Fulfil Solutions has shared its proposed salary range on Angel. For this position, it ranges from $80,000 to $130,000 annually.

Research Strategy

After searching through several salary reporting sites, we were unable to uncover general salary information for the robotics engineer job position at startups. However, after further research into startup job boards, we found startups offering careers in robotics engineering from angel.co that featured general salary range, job description, and candidate background expectations. We used these startup job postings to determine common salary offerings from robotics startups. In order to access this information, we had to create a mock account to review job offerings and salary per position.
Part
06
of seven
Part
06

Start-up Salary Information (6)

In startup companies, the annual salary of a business development engineer in the US with an experience of more than 5 years can range from $68,000 to $100,000 while the average annual salary is estimated to be $89,589.

General Salary Ranges: Business Development Engineer

  • In the United States, the total cash compensation (base + annual incentives) for a business development engineer with an experience of more than 5 years can range from $69,519 to $88,362 while the average annual salary is estimated to be $76,156.
  • In San Francisco, the total cash compensation (base + annual incentives) for a business development engineer with an experience of more than 5 years can range from $87,107 to $110,718 while the average annual salary is estimated to be $95,423.
  • LinkedIn's annual salary estimate for the same position in the United States was $97,500.

Startup Salary Ranges: Business Development Engineer

  • In the United States, the annual salary of a business development engineer with an experience of more than 5 years can range from $68,000 to $100,000 while the average annual salary is estimated to be $89,589.

Examples of Startup Salaries for the Business Development Engineer Position

Example #1

  • Hydrogen, a fintech startup, offered a sales engineer job on AngelList with a requirement of 5+ years of experience in the field.
  • The annual base salary mentioned for this position ranged from $90,000 to $130,000 along with 0.01% to 0.1% equity.
  • Hydrogen, founded in November 2017 and based in New York, is currently at the seed funding stage and has around 51-100 employees.

Example #2

  • Prophecy.io, a tech startup that provides cloud data services, offered a principal enterprise sales engineer job on AngelList with a requirement of 5+ years of experience in the field.
  • The annual base salary mentioned for this position ranged from $140,000 to $200,000 along with 0.1% to 0.25% equity.
  • Prophecy.io, founded in January 2017 and based in San Francisco Bay Area, is currently at the seed funding stage and has around 1-10 employees.


Research Strategy

We've used the experience filter of Salary.com to find the estimated salary range of a business development engineer with 5+ years of experience. Thus, we've provided the screenshots of the results in a Google Doc with the URLs. We leveraged the data on AngelList's portal that shows job postings of startup companies to provide examples of the salaries in the research above. To access this information, we had to create a mock account to review job offerings and salary details of each position. And as a result, we've provided the screenshots of the post-login pages in a Google Doc. The job titles mentioned in the examples above may not be exactly the same but are similar to the title of a business development engineer as we've included these examples only after carefully reviewing the job role descriptions to find the exact match of a business development engineer role.

Part
07
of seven
Part
07

Equity Compensation for the First 5 Employees in a Start-up

The level of stock options offered to the first five employees at a startup will vary based on factors including employee number, area of focus, salary requirements, and experience. However, with that being said, in the U.S., the range of stock options for employees hired in the seed stage, when the first 10 employees are typically hired, range from 0.5% to 1.0%. More details and a fuller explanation of the numbers are provided below.

Startup Funding

  • According to Fundz, as of August 2019, the average seed funding amount for startups in the U.S. was $1.1 million.
  • AlleyWatch reports that median early stage funding (angel and seed) was $1.6 million in January 2020, while the average was $2.4 million.
  • Since data shows that the average and median seed funding amount in the U.S. are both greater than the $1 million threshold of interest, we assumed that data related to how equity is given out to the first five employees in a startup on average, would also apply to startups that raised $1 million or more in their seed round.
  • The research for this report is focusing on seed funding because that tends to be the time period when the first five employees are hired.

Equity for Early Employees

  • In general, the earlier an employee is hired in a startup, the higher the equity they will receive. When determining the amount of equity to give an early employee there are many factors to consider including timing, experience, seniority, salary, and the job they are being hired for.
  • According to Anu Shukla, an entrepreneur who has founded or cofounded five venture-backed startups, the standard "for a key employee at the executive level" was 1.5%-2%. However, even with that knowledge, she gave a VP of Engineering that she hired 3%, as she wanted to keep him motivated and have him stick around. There was no indication of whether this person was a first five hire, or later in the process.
  • On average, startups at the seed round have allocated just over 10% of equity for employees, with the remaining equity split between founders and investors.
  • Data on what U.S. companies are doing at the seed stage shows that stock equity varies based on the experience level of the employee, as well as the type of job they are being hired for. The complete table can be found here, but the following are some examples.
  • Technical employees, such as engineers, receive the highest stock option percentage, ranging from an average of 0.15% for a junior engineer, to 1.00% for a senior engineer. On the other end of the spectrum are business development employees, whose average options range from 0.05% for a junior team member, to 0.35% for a senior employee.
  • There are times when higher options would be indicated, for example if there was a single founder who needs to hire a wider range of skill-sets.
  • For comparison, once a company has reached Series A funding, giving options between 0.8% and 1.5% to C-level executives would be common, while VP-level employees typically receive 0.3-0.8%.
  • As part of the negotiating process when bringing on a new employee, it should be made clear that there is a vesting period to earn the stock options; and a typical time period to be fully vested in the U.S. is 4 years.

Additional Stock Considerations for Early Employees

  • Dilution is the decrease in the value of stock as the company grows and more stock is released. This should be considered when determining stock options.
  • Hiring at the seed level typically includes the first 10 employees. One breakdown of what that should look like is seven tech hires, three senior, two mid-level, and two junior-level, and three non-tech hires, two mid-level and one junior.
  • Senior hires will also have a higher percentage of their compensation accounted for with stock, as compared to mid-level and junior staff.

U.S. Versus Europe

  • Index Ventures produced a report with guidelines on how to design a stock option plan for European startups. Although the report was created for European companies, there were some interesting insights about U.S. companies provided as comparison.
  • In the U.S., startup employees own about 20% of companies, while in Europe it is typically 10%.
  • While European startups typically have about two-thirds of stock options allocated to executives, U.S. startups have two-thirds allocated to non-executive employees.
  • When a U.S. employee joins a startup with less than 100 employees, stock options are generally expected. This is not true in Europe.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "An early career Embedded Software Engineer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $78,067 based on 954 salaries. A mid-career Embedded Software Engineer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $89,648 based on 376 salaries. An experienced Embedded Software Engineer with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $103,606 based on 196 salaries."
  • "Employees with Embedded Software Engineer in their job title in San Francisco, California earn an average of 39.4% more than the national average. These job titles also find higher than average salaries in San Jose, California (28.2% more) and San Diego, California (10.6% more)."
Quotes
  • "An early career Embedded Software Engineer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $101,972 based on 19 salaries. A mid-career Embedded Software Engineer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $118,991 based on 11 salaries. An experienced Embedded Software Engineer with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $120,000 based on 5 salaries."
Quotes
  • "The average salary for an IoT Engineer is $168,970 per year in the United States."
Quotes
  • "The average salary for an IoT Engineer is $222,956 per year in California, which is 64% above the national average."
Quotes
  • "Startup Software Engineer Salaries by Percentile PERCENTILE SALARY LOCATION LAST UPDATED 10th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $84,859 US January 20, 2020 25th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $95,710 US January 20, 2020 50th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $107,627 US January 20, 2020 75th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $118,754 US January 20, 2020 90th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $128,885 US January 20, 2020"
Quotes
  • "Startup Software Engineer Salaries by Percentile PERCENTILE SALARY LOCATION LAST UPDATED 10th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $106,329 San Francisco, CA January 20, 2020 25th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $119,924 San Francisco, CA January 20, 2020 50th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $134,857 San Francisco, CA January 20, 2020 75th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $148,799 San Francisco, CA January 20, 2020 90th Percentile Startup Software Engineer Salary $161,492 San Francisco, CA January 20, 2020"
Quotes
  • "IoT Engineer $93k – $95k • 0.25% – 0.4%"
Quotes
  • "Firmware Engineer $110k – $130k • 0.1% – 0.2% "
Quotes
  • "Senior Embedded Software Engineer $130k – $150k • 0.0% – 0.2%"