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Here’s a Guide to Startup Compensation Strategies

“Grow the pie, don’t just take our piece of it.” That was a founding mantra for Homebrew when Satya and I started the firm in 2013. Starting with a blank sheet of paper allowed us to lead with our values and incorporate them into our operating principles. Founding Homebrew wasn’t about our ability to raise a fund but rather whether we thought we could have a positive impact on the early stage landscape in addition to being successful investors.

But we also wanted to stay focused — no large platform or operations teams, no large-scale events, no 10x growth in funds raised before we proved whether or not we could return 10x. That forced us to think about how could we possibly contribute by running our own playbook, not a junior version of what many billion dollar funds attempt. We came up with three guiding principles for how’d we grow the pie:

  1. Make It Scale — Try as best we could to create resources that could scale 1:many, especially outside of the Bay Area.
  2. Put It In Front of the “Paywall”– Don’t make it about what we can do for startups post-investment — there’s plenty of work we do there, most which doesn’t scale infinitely — but try as best we could to give it away for free.
  3. Catalyze It, Don’t Own It — Put work out there but don’t seek to own it. Leverage the community to help us improve it over time.

People & Talent is one area where we’ve made strides to live up to our goals to contribute broadly, primarily because we brought on Beth Scheer last summer. As our Head of Talent, Beth works with the Homebrew portfolio on a mixture of tactical and strategic people work. From playing air-traffic controller over a small number of high priority searches, to helping companies hire their first in-house recruiter, to generally helping founders build their hiring culture. We punched above our weight in getting Beth on-board — she’d spent six years at Google and six at Salesforce (most recently leading executive recruiting) — and it’s paid off for our founders and our firm trajectory.

Earlier this year Beth released our first “living resource,” a guide to Diversity at Early Stage Startups, which she authored with assistance from industry experts and now updates quarterly with new tools, thinking and best practices.

Last week, Beth published our second document, this one focused on Compensation at Startups. Again, we intend to keep this resource up to date based on our evolving advice and resources we can incorporate. It makes me really proud to see people I respect from around the tech community referencing its value.

Satya and I believe we still have a lot of work to do to make sure Homebrew reaches its full potential but I’m glad that we’ve been able to try to “grow the pie” during our earliest years. And thank you to Beth for the great work executing Homebrew’s values!

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