CEO Salary = Zero?

I’ve been invited to be the CEO of a startup.

They’ve been around for a while and still have zero funding.

So, their proposal is zero salary and a majority equity position.
And only after funding will I get a salary, but who knows if this is even possible.


  • You don’t seem that fired up to be a part of that team (and I can see why you wouldn’t be), so I’m not sure why you’d do it.

  • Do you have a clear picture of their current fundraising progress? My guess is very little if you’re being asked to come in as CEO, but this should certainly be a major factor in your decision-making.

  • Run away.

    It sounds like this business has gone sideways (at best) and thinks the solution to the problem is to drop a bunch of equity in your lap in the hopes that you’ll clean up their mess. This isn’t a turnaround play. This is a train wreck.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I would NEVER bring someone on and give them a majority. They’re looking to walk away and that’s exactly what you need to be doing at this moment.

  • Not to go against the purpose of this site, but if you have to ask this, you probably should not be a CEO.

    If you have any doubt, then you should have no doubt in passing.

  • Are you rich? If you can take a job with zero salary, the answer is probably yes. That, or you’re a modest trustafarian with no dependents.

    I’d keep two things in mind.

    First, 25% of 0 is still 0. Good luck pawning off some of those Macbooks and Xeons.

    Second, if the company does onboard an investor or a dozen or VCs or cash management or payday loans, whoever has investor status will get preferential payout. Full stop. You can now divide your actual equity by four, or ten.

    But hey. Next Facebook. It could happen.

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