Dollars and Sense

The tech startup world, as anyone who’s spent time in it knows, is a weird place. It’s a strange little bubble universe that’s absolutely awash in cash while the rest of the economy struggles and stumbles along, but the people you might expect to be raking in the cash usually aren’t. Case in point – the people who’ve benefited the most from the tech boom in SF over the last decade are arguably the city’s landlords. There’s a city full of people with 6-figure incomes who each spend half – or more – of their take home pay on insanely overpriced tiny apartments. According to some studies I’ve seen recently (sorry, I can’t find the link atm, will try to add it in an edit later) rents across most of the city have doubled in the past year. And they weren’t exactly cheap to start with!

I bring up the subject because the wife and I are in the process of getting our house in vallejo ready to rent out since I just can’t take the hour+ each way commute any more. The idea is we rent out our house for enough to cover the mortgage and then rent a place closer in so we can actually have a life outside of work and commuting. Nice idea in theory, but it didn’t take into account how crazy expensive the city has become. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically I’d need to be making a hell of a lot more to be able to live in SF and still have anything left over to live on. So, like lots of other young-ish creative people, we’re moving to Oakland instead.

Which got me thinking, just how much should I be making? It’s one of those questions I think most of us ask at some point. Fortunately, the good folks over at Wealthfront have put together this awesome little interactive infographic on wage levels in the startup world.

Pretty cool, innit? I mean, I wish there was a bit more clarity on what the “levels” mean. I assume level 1 is entry but beyond that I don’t really know how to place myself in a world where experience and talent have such wildly divergent value curves. I’ve met more then one CEO who was younger and less experienced then me and plenty of folks who work in the trenches who’ve blown me away with their knowledge and experience. Even so, it’s nice to have a bit of a reality check on what’s possible and what’s normal. Well, as normal as anything is in Silicon Valley.