Finding cofounders · CTO

What is the average amount of equity to be given to a CTO?

Vince Marconi Founder President at Price Patrol; Looking for Advisors, Investment and CTO

June 14th, 2016

I have been a solo-entrepreneur on my company Price Patrol for 3 + years now.  I have outsourced all development, however for my current fundraise many investors want to see a CTO already on board or willing to jump on post funding.

What is a realistic equity % to offer him/her?
Pay range for a top notch CTO?

Keeping in mind I have raised from personal investment and family and friends $500k+.

Thank you for your insights!

PS:  If you or someone you know is interested in this position, that is my main goal of being on FounderDating.  Looking for a talented, full-stack engineer with team leadership abilities who enjoys a challenge!!  Message me for more details!

-Vince Marconi
Price Patrol

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

June 14th, 2016

Wow this question gets asked A LOT here. A few things to consider: 
  • Equity is not compensation - you can't pay your rent with it
  • Equity is not deferred compensation - there is no guarantee it will ever be worth anything
  • Equity serves a different purpose than compensation - compensation acknowledges past accomplishments, equity encourages ongoing engagement
  • Equity is subject to dilution
So some of the key questions are: 
  • How much are you willing to pay this person (in addition to the equity grant)? 
  • What guarantees are you willing to make with respect to employment, compensation, and the value of equity? (I could tell you stories!) 
  • Under what circumstances will the equity have value, be valued, and be convertible to cash? 
There is lots more to consider - but this is a good place to start. Cofounder/key employee arrangements are tricky and most startups spend far too little time considering them fully. I see too many of them after the train has come off the tracks! 

Mike Moyer

June 14th, 2016

This is a great resource:

If you pay him a fair market salary, any equity grant is a bonus. 

If you don't pay him a fair market salary then the difference between what you actually pay him and a fair market rate is at-risk. It's essentially an investment in your company and he should get a % share of the company that is equal to his % share of the at-risk investments.

You time and your investors' money is also at risk.

Use the Slicing Pie model to make sure everyone get what they deserve. If you want a copy of the Slicing Pie book contact me through

Paula Weiner Founder & President, Weiner & Associates, Inc.

June 14th, 2016

Great replies and important considerations Joe. I have an executive search firm and have worked with many start ups; as a general guideline a key first hire will receive between 1% and 3%, occasionally it's as high as 5%, but that's rare. All of the above considerations are important. In addition, will you be raising additional money and will that dilute established shares of the business. If you would like to have an additional information/guidance, you are welcome to email/call.

Josh McCormack Securing funding for my pre revenue startup app in recruiting space.

June 14th, 2016

Good reply, Joe. Equity is a gamble, and it's value is based much more on likelihood of success than market share. Sadly, there are a near infinite number of things that can kill off a startup. And if the decision maker isn't willing to sell the company as fast as possible, the risk goes up.

BTW, seems like a fun idea. Just wondering if the tech couldn't be used elsewhere, too, for things like homes, cars, employees, best places to place retail businesses, etc. 

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

June 14th, 2016

Mike - Interesting perspective. I always wonder how you "price" the risk. For example, if my contribution is worth X and we convince ourselves that  X = Y% of equity (interesting in a pre-valuation company) but also agree that the venture has a 50% chance of success do I now get 2Y% as my equity? 

The question of who takes on risk and who reaps rewards is always challenging and an important, often overlooked, part of the "while we're still friends" conversation. 

Chicke Fitzgerald 𝗘𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗳𝗼𝗰𝘂𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴. 💡 I zig where others zag #͏z͏i͏g͏w͏i͏t͏h͏c͏h͏i͏c͏k͏e

June 15th, 2016

Mike's book is the soundest methodology that I have found for looking at equity.  

Vince, I would ask you another question.   How have you gotten as far as you have?  Your product looks great, but it looks like you may still have some data aggregation challenges, ensuring that the user gets results to his/her search.  

A CIO may be more appropriate for you, taking a look at your overall strategy for the product, data, security, etc.   A CTO can help you with the tools and platforms, as well as manage the development function (whether insourced or outsourced).   You may find someone that has both skill sets (which is what I recommend for early stage firms), but it is rare.  It is like finding someone that is good at both Sales and Marketing.

C J Information Architect with eCommerce, Business Transformation & Business Acceleration Expertise

June 19th, 2016

Vince, Gone through your website and the mobile app. I assume that you are after the external funding. You app needs a facelift and better to have a engineering head to take the app to the next level. Equitywise anything betweeb 5 - 15% would be a good chunk. If you in need of a contact, I have few references based in west coast. If you can initiate a private message, I would be able to share the contact numbers and the email addresses of those individuals.

Aliya Bhatia Founder at PawSwap & General Manager at Hampton Inn & Suites

March 16th, 2017

Cliff Hirtle

June 15th, 2016

Rather than providing a specific model beyond what has already been mentioned I will just say that I always found Startup's episode on the reality of dividing up the imaginary pie one of the most realistic depictions of the challenges in this space, what not do do, etc:

Bert Wank Power Management Technologist ► Start-up executive ► Product Innovator

June 17th, 2016

All good points, complex equation. Also consider your current funding level and your technology maturity, his/her value creation goal. For value creation guidance see Evaluate risk-reward. has a nifty tool for calculating equity contributions.
Must have skin on the game, preferably a (co-)founders cash contribution (out of cash=out of options to run the company). Does he/she have the ability to pay him/herself until a milestone is reached that either brings cash or investment to the firm? Run his/her funds for the fractional payroll through the corp account to test commitment, build trust. Successful negotiating!