Startup Equity Data Reveals That the Largest Grants Go to Software Engineers

Pave’s benchmarking data helps HR professionals demystify the market for new hire equity grants.

For many startups, competing with salary benchmarks at established tech companies is impossible. While smaller companies have long offered equity to supplement their compensation packages, equity grants can be difficult for job seekers to evaluate and even more complex for HR professionals to allocate and manage. By analyzing compensation data from thousands of companies, Pave is able to share the latest benchmarks for equity grants across different size companies.

For companies with less than 50 employees, professional-level Software Engineers receive the highest median grant values, at 0.12%. While it may not sound like much, for an employee holding a tenth of 1.0% when a company reaches a Unicorn status ($1 billion valuation), that equity would be worth $1 million. 

Roles like Sales, Growth Marketing, and Accounting see less substantial median grant values, ranging between 0.04% and 0.05%. And Recruiting, Operations, and People Operations are among the job families receiving the lowest median new hire grants, around 0.02% to 0.03%.

But even for those in high-equity roles, timing is everything when it comes to getting a large grant. By breaking out new hire grant values across different sized companies, we can dive deeper into the roles that receive the biggest grants.

Software Engineering

Anything built to last needs a solid foundation, which is why startups covet top engineering talent. Software engineers pull in the heftiest grants while their companies still have less than 25 people. For professional-level software engineers, the median grant at a company with between 10 to 25 employees is nearly a quarter of 1.0%.

The median grant size drops off substantially once a company is between 26-50 headcount, when new hires can expect to see grants around 0.07%.

Product Management

Just as critical as making sure tech products are built right is making sure the right products are built. This is why Product Managers are among the professional-level roles compensated with the largest equity grants, with median grant values at companies with 10-25 employees reaching 0.21%—just shy of benchmarks among Software Engineers.

And, like Software Engineers, the earliest hires are likely to see substantially larger grants. Median grant values drop to 0.07% at companies with 25 to 50 headcount and continue to taper down from there.

Business Operations

Though roles in Business Operations also lead the pack for equity grant size, they buck the timing trends seen among Software Engineers and Product Managers. Depending on the company, BizOps might be a precision hire for a critical business function — like fundraising or compliance — but is often a catchall for a strategy wizard who puts out fires and builds bridges all over the org.

While Business Operations hires don’t see grants as large as Software Engineering or Product Management roles in companies between 10-25 employees, BizOps hires at slightly larger companies (sized 26-50 headcount) see median grant size of 0.10%, which is greater than Software Engineers or Product Managers brought in at the same stage.

Sales

Though high-performing members of the Sales team can command some of the highest compensation packages, their equity grants typically fall below those seen by critical early hires in Software Engineering and Product Management. Professional-level sales hires at companies with a headcount of 10-25 receive an equity grant of 0.07%, on average.

Though it may seem overwhelming to evaluate equity as part of a compensation package, startup equity grants can add up to big payouts down the road for early hires at successful companies. Pave’s benchmarking data helps HR professionals demystify the market for new hire equity grants.