Crypto Startup Salaries: Here’s How Much Devs and Others Get Paid

Is it worth quitting your job to work in crypto?

A new study from crypto venture capital firm Framework helps answer that question by giving a glimpse into startup salaries, offering concrete info for anyone seeking to join the crypto gold rush.

The venture capital firm surveyed 18 companies in which it is invested to get a sense of pay. Highlights include salaries well into the six-figure range for both technical and non-technical roles, including one high-flying engineer raking in $300,000 in base pay. Founders can also expect to receive a mid-single-digit percent allocation of tokens and, in rare instances, up to 10% of the total supply.

“There’s currently no Glassdoor or Levels equivalent for Web3,” said Daniel Mason, operating partner at Framework Ventures and leader of the survey effort. He explained that releasing this data benefits “both founders and job seekers by improving transparency in the ecosystem.”

Conducted in May, the anonymized survey spanned early-stage companies varying in size from two to 80 employees. Companies in Framework’s portfolio are largely focused on Ethereum-based decentralized finance (DeFi) projects, infrastructure and Web3 gaming, including lending protocol Aave, play-to-earn game Illuvium and stablecoin project Fei.

The data reveals both base salaries and allocations of equity and/or crypto tokens for four key groups: founders, executives (non-founder c-suite hires), engineers and non-engineer operators (sales, marketing, recruiting, etc.).

"Base salaries between Web2 and Web3 roles are comparable, but it's the token upside that's the kicker," said Dan Eskow, founder of crypto recruiting firm Up Top. "Even a small token allocation can become very valuable if the project becomes the next billion-dollar protocol."

For those looking to ride the next crypto rocket ship, Framework’s Mason thinks there’s no better time than in a bear market – which continues in crypto.

“Nothing is certain when it comes to compensation packages, but I think it's generally preferable to lock in terms when a project or company is priced at a lower valuation,” said Mason. “While FAANG stocks are down 30%-35% year to date, crypto is down much more, and so I think it follows that it's possible that those joining the right project now could one day see more upside than those who joined at the top of the last bull market.”

Founder compensation

Early-stage companies: $100K-$175K annually, with $130K-$160K representing the top of the bell curve

Later-stage companies: $175K-$225K

Non-token equity: Approximately 80% owned by founders in early stages, diluted to 20%-50% in later rounds

Token equity: Founding teams own 8%-12% of max token supply, with individual founders owning between 2.5%-7.5%, with 4%-6% being most common. The highest ownership percentage surveyed (10%) was from a solo founder at an early-stage startup.

  • For early-stage companies, founders tend to pay themselves the minimum amount to maintain a comfortable but basic quality of life.
  • Salaries ran higher for U.S.-based founders and slightly lower for international founders, depending especially on location and cost of living.
  • For decentralized networks (DAO), token ownership (versus equity) is the standard way of incentivizing employees

Non-founder executive compensation

Early-stage companies: $120K-$160K

Later-stage companies: $225K+

Non-token equity: 1%-4% of company equity at early-stage companies; 1%-2% of company equity at later-stage companies

Token equity: 0.5%-1% of max token supply at DAOs and protocols with a token at later-stage companies

  • C-level engineering and business development hires were often the highest paid non-founder executives.
  • Many executive sales roles have high variable-based compensation in the form of performance-based bonuses.
  • Floor pay was higher for U.S.-based executives.

Engineer compensation

U.S.-based engineers: typically $125K-$160K, with a median of $150K

Global engineers: typically $100K-150K, with a median of $125K

Token equity: 0.1%-0.4% of max token supply

  • Highest-paid engineer surveyed hauled in $300K
  • Compensation was highly location-dependent, with U.S. engineers commanding higher salaries.
  • Figures do not include bonuses.
  • Crypto-specific engineers with knowledge of Solidity and Rust programming languages and blockchain architecture commanded higher salaries.
(Framework Ventures)

Non-founder business operations compensation

Business development and partnerships: $60K-$120K for mid-level; $150K for senior-level

Marketing and communications: $80K-$100K for mid-level; $140K for senior-level

Product and finance: $60K-$120K for mid-level; $150K for senior-level, typically only hired at later-stage companies

Operations, design, recruiting, community management: up to $130K

Token equity: project dependent