Who deserves a bigger salary between CTO and COO?

Pardon me for asking this silly question. I’m one of the Cofounders and my CEO decided to hire a COO as we need to scale our operation.

This new COO will get quite a significant salary while I’m the CTO, who’s been with the company from the beginning will get the lowest salary among the c-level people in our company and the smallest amount of shares as well.

Is these situation fair?

Is it normal that for a Cofounder/CTO, who is the backbone for a tech company get lowest salary compared to other c-level guys?

  • When the cashflow is insufficient to pay all execs a market salary the CEO should take the lowest salary. So it’s possible the CEO is taking advantage of you.

  • no its not. boosting salary and shares to convince someone to join is common. Its way harder to convince a new guy/girl to join with lower salary than to convince one of the already loyal internal employees to accept a lower payment and balance a cash flow.

    You are way more invested into this and has spent a significant amount of risk, time, passion & effort that makes it easier to “convince” you to accept your current situation. Don’t take it hard on yourself nor on the COO, if you were interviewing for a new company tomorrow, you’d negotiate as high as you could, the argument but our long lasting CMO is earning x won’t really pay your rent.

    however :

    – A fair compensation model if cash is low is higher share. If you’re earning 10 and COO is earning 15, then you should have 20 shares and she 5.

    – Id reconsider working along with such a CEO that doesn’t really offer a fair compensation model, especially someone who doesn’t appreciate loyalty.

    – Its also quite remarkable how a “Cofounder” has less shares than a newly hired employee.

    That being said, if you are sure about the fact you’re the backbone of the company you should renogotiate your terms. There’s a lot of negotiation tactics for that, id strong advise against comparing yourself to the new hire, the “but he is that and im this..” puts you already in a bad box to start with. And in general people realise the importance of certain people once they’re gone, preparing plan Bs wouldn’t be dumb.

  • If they depend on you, ask for better salary/equity and you’ll get it. If not, find a better job. You don’t have much to lose. It is probably really easy to you to find it.

    I was in your shoes some years ago when I joined the company I’m CTO today. I joined as an engineer, but it was just me, the tech chief was never there and delayed some critical milestones. I asked to be CTO without their interference, asked to better payment and everything worked fine after some fights. I’m younger than the CEO and he tried to convince me I deserved a lower wage because I wasn’t senior enough.

    I think I did everything right, but looking to the past, I was prepared to jump the boat if they didn’t gave me what I wanted. I had great offers to leave. It’s easy to say it was the best choice to me, our startup is successful today, but I had to handle a lot to make it happen. The CEO is poisonous, tried a lot to reduce my role, but the board helped me a lot. If the problem is your CEO, think if you want to work with him before ask for more responsibility.

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