Framework Ventures – a blockchain-focused venture capital and technology company – has released a report examining compensation among venture-backed crypto startups.
The firm surveyed 18 companies, ranging from 2 to 80 employees, between May and June of 2022. Respondents were largely part of the DeFi, infrastructure, and web 3 gaming sectors and included by centralized companies and DAOs.
Framework’s report publicly revealed 7 key findings, including information about how many startups actually use crypto over fiat to pay employees. Here’s what they were:
Fiat Rules the U.S.; USDC Rules Internationally
Over 80% of survey respondents headquartered within the United States offered US dollars as the primary payment option for employees. Rarely do such companies offer full-time employees payment in dollar-pegged stablecoins, like USDC.
However, the prevalence of USDC payments was larger for U.S.-based contractors and larger still for international teams. 56% of international respondents said USDC is their primary payment option, with the remainder evenly split between US dollars and local currency.
Equity Tokens are Less Common in the U.S.
The spread of token and equity allocations could vary greatly between each individual crypto startup. However, as a general trend, U.S.-based companies were far less likely to launch, or plan to launch a token than their international competitors.
Furthermore, DAOs were likely to use tokens as a standard method for incentivizing employees. People that became involved with DAOs early were especially likely to receive outsized portions of a token’s max supply compared to latecomers.
For crypto startups, working remotely is the new standard. It was the primary operating model for most respondents 58%, while none were “fully centralized” in structure.
Framework said this was natural and necessary given that over 33% of even U.S.-based companies lived internationally.
Founders Keep Themselves Comfortable
Company founders salaries almost always paid themselves over $100,000 per year, even if part of an early stage company. This compensation increased to a range of roughly $175,000 to $225,000 per year for later stage companies.
They were also likely to allocate themselves a massive share of equity: ~80% during early days, ~30 to 50% in later funding rounds. This wasn’t as true of DAO or protocol founders, who collectively own roughly ~8 to12% of max token supply for a typical project.
Executives Are Paid Even Better
Non-founder executive salaries at early-stage companies are roughly the same as founders’ ranging between $125,000 and $160,000. Late-stage companies, on the other hand, frequently pay their executives over $225,000. U.S. executive pay was especially high, with no such respondent reporting a salary under six figures.
Non-founder executives at late-stage companies usually received 1 to 2% of company equity, versus 0.5% to 1% of DAO tokens supply.
Engineers are still in massively high demand in crypto, and their salaries reflect that. Over 55% of respondents made between $100,000 and $175,000 per year.
This amount increased for crypto-specific engineers – despite the fact that these engineers were more concentrated outside the U.S. Over 15% of them had salaries nearing $300,000 per year. They were also more likely to work for DAOs, holding between 0.1% and 0.4% of token supply.
How Do Other Workers Fare?
For non-founders, executives, and engineers, employee pay was largely dependent on location. Those working in the U.S., U.K., and Europe made more than workers in lower cost-of-living areas.
The highest paid roles in this category were those in BD/partnerships, and marketing/PR/comms. The former was paid between $60,000 to $120,000 at mid-level, while the latter was paid between $80,000 and $100,000 at mid-level.
Framework noted that its report was dependent on relatively small sample size. It will conduct another similar survey later in the year.