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Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Venture Capital Jobs

There’s A Lot of Money in VC: But How Much Do VC’s Actually Make? (2018 Venture Capital Salary Survey)

with 10 comments

This is a post I’ve been waiting to share with you for a long time.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been helping people get venture capital jobs through my VC jobs blog and email list.

There’s much more transparency in the VC industry now vs. 10 years ago.

Except when it comes to venture capital salary and compensation data.

Because I’m still getting emails like this one:

pasted image 0

It makes sense.

There’s no single source of (free) aggregated venture capital compensation information on the web. (Or, maybe I’m just horrible at Googling)

On the flip side, I know partners at hiring VC firms are also asking their buds:

“How much should we pay an <analyst/associate/senior associate>?”

An Awkward Conversation

I didn’t record that phone call…(but maybe I should have?)

A VC firm made me an offer.

And I had no idea (just like the other times VCs offered me jobs) if the offer was “market” or not.

So I did what any self-respecting person with a VC job offer would do.

I phoned a friend.

(Unofficial transcript of that call)

Me: “Hey … uh … so … what’s up?”

Friend: “Not much…” (followed by painful silence)

Me: (dying to break said painful silence) “How about those Mets?”

Friend: “Umm, yeah, they’re great….

So…you’re calling because you want to know how much money I make?”

Me: “Uhhhhhhhhhhh…..yeah, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. I promise I’ll keep it between us.”

Friend: “When I started at the firm I made $125k, and got 10% of the total carry.”

Me: “Wow. That seems like a lot of carry. Umm…cool. That was helpful. (Crickets…)”

Kthxbye.

Goodbye, awkward convos. Hello, Venture Capital Salary Survey

Because that kind of call is just painful – (for everyone involved) – late last year I polled over 7000 people in the industry, mostly through my VC Careers email list.

to be alerted

Over 400 people working in VC responded, across nearly as many firms — both financial VCs and corporate VCs.

After the submissions came in, I sent them to the math department.

shutterstock_510960490(It’s OK — we pay our interns)

And we put together a detailed report about VC compensation — across different titles, fund sizes, and continents.

Our results include minimums, maximums, local minimums, local maxima, infimums and supremums – all of that good stuff. (There’s more about the methodology we used for the survey at the end of the post, if you’re interested)

(Btw… Click here to be notified about next year’s report)

But I know you probably didn’t submit – or maybe didn’t even know we were doing the survey.

That’s OK.

Because I’m going to share some results from the venture capital salary survey below.

Might make sense for me to start with some details how VC’s get paid, first, though.

(Especially if you’re new to the industry)

dollar-2891817_1280

How VCs make money

3 things … salary, bonus, and carry.

Salary: is well, salary :)

It makes up the majority of a (non-intern) VC’s comp in any given year.

(I’ll explain that non-intern comment in a bit…)

Salary is usually paid out of a fund’s management fees. Most VC funds above a certain size will charge a 2% or 2.5% management fee for the active investment years.

Smaller funds will have lower management fee percentages. (And teeny tiny funds won’t pull any management fees.)

So, forget about the private jet if you’re working at a small fund. You’re straight Uber-pooling it.

This is because a firm that has $500k or $2 million (or even $5 million) under management isn’t going to have much — or any — cash lying around to pay you a full-time salary.

That’s why you see some VCs who run small funds doing side hustles to pay the bills while they wait for their bets – (I mean, investments) – to pay off.

Bonus: isn’t a given like it is in investment banking or other traditional finance shops. But many respondents (across all titles) say that they’re getting them.

Carry: is shorthand for carried interest (because ‘carried interest’ is sooooo painfully long to type).

It’s the percentage of investment profits (often 20%, sometimes 25% or even 30%) that the partners in the VC firm get paid in addition to fund management fees.

You might have heard this talked about as the 2/20 model – the (typically) 2% management fee and the (typically) 20% carry.

In most firms, carry is divided up (unevenly) between the General Partners…

…with a few table scraps for the junior staffers.

Carry

Of course, there are exceptions.

For example, firms like Benchmark Capital divide the carry equally between all partners. And according to some academic research, funds with an equitable split of the carry tend to outperform funds that don’t.

(First World) Problems With Carry

  • No realized profits == No carry (i.e. Paper gains don’t count, and cash returns need not apply)

“Carry” is typically only realized after the limited partners in the fund have received 1X of their invested capital back.

What’s left is the “profit,” and this is the money (the carry) that is divided up using the 20% / 80% distribution.

But if you’re keeping score:

You know that VCs aren’t exactly generating great cash returns — so it’s pretty hard to get into that carry zone.  After all, VC funds have consistently underperformed the S&P 500, NASDAQ and Russell 2000.

(The Lowercase Capitals of the world? They’re the exception, not the rule.)

Most funds follow traditional structures and really need the math to work out in their favor before they even dream of paying their juniors something that could be considered substantial carry.

That said, there are many nuances to carry distribution, with some firms employing different mechanisms such as “cliffs” and “accelerations” (or a lack thereof) to incentivize partners and/or lower level employees to remain at the fund longer – as this can often positively signal LP’s.

Still, as a general rule of thumb, most mid and low-level employees at a fund do not earn much carry.

The data from the survey bears all this out, too.

Less than half of respondents at analyst, associate, or senior associate levels had the potential to earn carry.

For example, only 25% of analysts and 40% of associates in the financial VC respondent pool reported that they get any carry.

It’s even less in the corporate VC pool — only 10% of those analysts and associates who responded get any carry.

  • But even a fund ends up generating carry — it takes a loooong time.

Why?

  1. Venture capital is a waiting game. For example, at the early stage, you’re looking at 10 years (i.e. the average VC fund’s life cycle) to see any meaningful returns on your investment.
  2. Venture is a highly illiquid asset class. Sure, you have shops like Industry Ventures and exchanges like EquityZen that can help investors take money off the table — but it’s far from the level of liquidity and transparency that you would see in the public markets.
  • You gotta pay (in some cases) to play.

General partners have a “GP commit” (often around 2% of the total fund) that they have to pay in.

If they don’t have a lot of cash lying around, then they’ll take out a loan to fund that GP commit (Thank god for Silicon Valley Bank). Or if they have enough management fees to draw from, they’ll use those to fund their commit and take a lower salary than they might have otherwise.

Makes sense, right?

If someone is thinking of writing you a check for millions, they probably want to see if you have some skin in the game. :)

But even if you’re not a GP, you can see this in action.

For example, one fund that I interviewed with had the junior staffers paying in for their carry — in order to get any (potential) carry out.

What this all sums up to is that, clearly, cash (compensation) is still king — and probably always will be — in the VC world.

And with all this (potential) money flying around (mostly) at the top, it only makes sense that the Associates and Analysts of the world want to climb the ranks… 

But therein lies a common point of friction in the VC world… 

To climb the ranks in a VC firm requires a proven track record and trust, on both ends of the table – and this isn’t always easy to come by.

Why?

  • Analysts/Associates want the deals they source to do well, so they can be biased when pitching these deals to an investment committee
  • There’s usually a gray area when it comes to who should get credit for a successful investment
  • There isn’t always transparency at a VC firm when it comes to financials and beyond

The good news?

At least in terms of that last point, we’re going to try and lift the veil.

OK. So how much money do venture capitalists actually make?

Let’s start with the General Partners – affectionately known as GPs.

Although Tom Perkins had that crazy space-age boat that he used to sail around in:

Tom Perkins BoatIt’s called The Maltese Falcon… because of course it is…

Most GP’s aren’t pulling down enough to build something like this.

This is primarily because Partner salaries are largely dependent upon the size and age of the fund itself, with Partners in more established funds earning more — because their capital contributions into the fund will be much less.

But regardless of fund size… most partners still do OK for themselves. :)

For example:

We all know how much Ellen Pao made when she was working at Kleiner Perkins (yeah, same Perkins).

And that’s not too far off from what we saw in the (less than 10) responses of Managing Director/Partner/Venture Partner types.

Between salary and bonus, those respondents are averaging over $500k/year (and much more carry, obviously).

As we go farther down the food chain…

How much money do venture capital vice presidents and venture capital principals make?

I’ve always thought of Vice President and Principal to be sort of similar in level of responsibility.

Nonetheless, we broke them out into two buckets.

tl;dr — The veeps aren’t doing too badly.

From the survey responses, the financial VCs are doling out almost $250,000 in yearly cash comp to folks at this level.

The places where the responding corporate VCs worked? A bit more stingy – about $175,000 across the respondent pool.

The principals come in close to these numbers, too:

Your average (responding) financial VC principal is taking home about $200,000 in cash comp.

The corporate VC with the same title? They only came in a bit below – at $180,000 in cash comp.

Some of that cash is coming in the form of bonus — over 75% of respondents said they are entitled to one.

How much money do venture capital associates and venture capital senior associates make?

Associates come in two flavors – senior and … (just plain associate)

If you believe this Quora thread, they typically make about 10-30% less than their Growth Equity counterparts and about 10-40% less than consultants.

But you’re looking for some hard data…not hearsay :)

So here it is:

In the survey results, we saw traditional VC associates pulling down an average of close to $130,000 in total compensation. The corporate VCs paid a shade more – $140,000 in total compensation, on average.

Senior associates are often post-MBA, or they’ve been promoted up from analyst and associate into the position.

In this case, the traditional VCs (at least based on the survey results) are paying more– $190,000 vs. about $150,000 for the corporate VCs.

shutterstock_655690936

That salary would cover most people’s monthly nut — even without a bonus. But most associates get one of those, too.

Over 75% of the associates (senior and “regular”) said that they’re entitled to one.

What is a venture capital Analyst’s salary?

We crawled AngelList on March 8th, 2018 and grabbed any VC-looking jobs with ‘Analyst’ titles in the US, EU, and the UK.

Based on that data — you’re looking at between $60,000 and $80,000 per year (averages of the low end and the high end) for an analyst gig.

Here’s the raw data, BTW…

The analysts who responded to the salary survey told us something not-too-different:

An average salary of just over $70k.

If you’re a VC intern…

I hope your Mom or Dad or Pop-Pop is paying the rent.

shutterstock_294262097

Because you’re not getting paid a dime – (most likely) – for that summer internship.

54% of financial VC intern respondents said that they are not getting paid — at all — by the VC firms that “hire” them. (I’ve heard about one firm getting in some moderate-to-deep legal isht because of this “We don’t pay our interns.” practice, too.)

On the other hand, those kind-hearted, labor law compliant corporate VCs (at least within our sample group) — paid every single one of their interns.

And kudos to VCs in Europe — assuming no one was lying in the survey responses, you are all paying your interns. :)

to be alerted

More on our methodology:

The survey ran from November 2, 2017 through December 6, 2017. Responses were voluntary.

About 10% of the ~400 total responses were excluded from the data analysis because they:

  • were outliers (would have heavily thrown off the analysis)
  • were not from people with relevant titles (e.g. if you’re a lawyer, you’re not a VC)
  • were single responses from planets(like that VC from Mars who responded — sorry, dude) or countries
  • were just plain invalid

We normalized some of the titles, too. For example, if someone said they were a “Venture Analyst” and someone else said they were an “Analyst”, we considered them both in the “Analyst” bucket.

We had to manually correct some of the fund sizes submitted. Some people had inputted “50m” instead of “50,000,000” for a fund size, for instance.

No survey sampling techniques were used as there weren’t enough responses to produce statistically accurate results (large variance & the skewed distribution that I mentioned before). So we used simple descriptive statistics instead.

The responses related to cash comp that we saw were right tail skewed.

That skewness isn’t too surprising.

pasted image 0 (1)

After all, most funds are smaller these days (because there’s been lots of growth in seed fund formation) and the GPs at those funds just don’t have a lot of cash to hand out to their underlings.

See you next year!

Click Here if you Want to be Notified About the 2019 VC Salary Survey. 1 (1)

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Written by John Gannon

May 1, 2018 at 5:14 am

10 Responses

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  1. have any gender data to report? It would be interesting to see how the VC space compares to other industries here.

    Kamal Yechoor

    May 6, 2018 at 11:57 am

    • We didn’t ask for this data but maybe we will next time around, Kamal. Thanks for reading and appreciate you talking about and sharing the post if you saw value in it. Thanks!

      John Gannon

      May 6, 2018 at 12:38 pm

  2. Great report! It sounds like you collected data on the percentage of non-partner investors with carry but I didn’t see anything about how much carry on average they were entitled to. Did you collect that data and if so could you share any numbers?

    VC Principal

    June 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    • Hey there – we asked “Did you get carry?” vs “How much carry did you get?”. Sorry we don’t have that data :(

      John Gannon

      June 13, 2018 at 1:48 pm

  3. Great report! Just wondering whether there are substantial differences among the VC fields (e.g. Biotech vs Tech or Fintech)…I confess it’s an interested question as I’m particularly interested in the biotech field :)

    VC intern (strangely decently paid :) )

    July 30, 2018 at 11:45 am

    • We didn’t do that split as we didn’t ask for people to report their vertical/type of typical investment. Maybe next year!

      John Gannon

      July 30, 2018 at 12:18 pm

  4. How is carry generally distributed when the fund has 4 or 5 general partners?

    Bill carpou

    August 11, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    • Most likely, unevenly :( Other than that, I don’t know of any guidelines. Sorry I can’t be of more help on this one, haven’t seen much (any) data on it.

      John Gannon

      August 24, 2018 at 5:20 pm

  5. Could you also please confirm the geographic scope of the survey? I am reading from Europe and would be interested to understand if these figures may be uses as references.
    Also, do you confirm that these wages are for seed / series A funds (VC funds), and that Series B/C/D (growth equity funds) funds should pay higher salaries?
    Many thanks !

    VC associate

    August 28, 2018 at 5:05 am

    • A large number of the responses (much more than half) came from US respondents, and we didn’t have breakouts by EU country (not enough data).

      The data was skewed towards smaller funds, so the comp numbers shared are definitely more slanted towards seed. So, yes, you might reasonably expect Series A+ funds to be able to pay more than what is listed. Of course, that depends on how well you negotiate :)

      Hope this helps!

      John Gannon

      August 28, 2018 at 5:21 am


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