[This is a weekly series that brings you raw, first-hand experiences from founders and investors in the trenches. Their story submissions are anonymous, allowing them to share openly without fear of retribution. Every Wednesday, we'll run one new story chosen by Dana Severson, who operates StartupsAnonymous, a place for startups to share, ask questions, and answer them in story-length posts, all anonymously. You can share your own story here.]
Recently, there have been several articles and discussions around the topic of founder salaries.
There seems to be two opposing forces: young founders and old founders. Old meaning, anyone over the age of 30 who has any sort of financial responsibility in their life.
I fit into the old category.
Here’s how I feel — the younger founders can kiss my ass.
You’re no martyr for taking less.
I take a salary of $70,000 per year and I struggle just as much as a 20-year old taking $30,000 per year. Just like you, I drive a shitty car with 180,000 miles on it. I haven’t purchased new clothes in over two years. I don’t eat out, go to movies, take exotic vacations or buy any luxury items. I struggle, just like you.
Here’s the deal young founder, the difference between you and me is our burn rate. You can survive on less, yet maintain the same lifestyle as me. Does that make you a more committed entrepreneur? Hell, no. I was that way once. And one day, you’ll be where I am.
“Well, older founders should be better off financially and have a nest egg to offset a lower salary.”
Wouldn’t that be nice. The problem with that theory is that I’ve been an on-and-off entrepreneur all of my career, therefore, I’ve always had to “make enough to cover the burn”. Not everyone over the age of 30 has had a big exit.
“If you’re married, you have two incomes.”
True, unless you have kids. In which case, you either pay for daycare or one of you stays home. Depending on your spouse’s salary, and the number of kids, you’re better off staying home.
“You should wait to have a family until you’re in a better position financially”
Life moves fast, kid. Entrepreneurship is an unpredictable path. If you wait until the time is right, it may never be right.
“Maybe you’re no longer fit to be an entrepreneur”
As a fellow entrepreneur, you know that’s not an option. But, fair enough, you do what you have to do to survive. I’ve had to work for many companies in my career, even though I have felt like I was cheating on myself.
Someday, young founder, you’ll understand. In the meantime though, you can kiss my ass — again.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]