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Part-Time CTO Salary Denied by Board
10 points by technuke 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments
I have been working as a part time CTO and co-founder in a 3 years old startup. At the start of the startup, a money injection of about 40,000 USD has been injected by both co-founders (CTO and CEO), thus making a 80,000 USD initial startup capital. Fast forward to recent days, the startup has recently gotten more than 2,000,000 USD in seed funding and VC investment. Since the start, the CTO has never got any monthly salary or any sort of compensation. The VC has demanded the CTO to join the company on full-time bases and established a plan with deadline for CTO full-time commitment. Now, the CTO has demanded to be paid part-time monthly salary until he becomes available on full-time bases, but the board (CEO and 1 VC seat) has rejected to pay the CTO and requested the CTO to continue to work for free until the CTO is available on full-time bases. What would you do if you are in my case, as a CTO being requested to work for free with much higher expectations from the board and as the company rapidly scaling up and in great need for solid CTO role?

Note: both CTO and CEO are shareholder.






First: The way you're mixing 1st and 3rd person in this post is very confusing. From the comments, it sounds like you're the CTO.

Second: Echoing others, it's entirely reasonable that the VCs want a full-time commitment before paying you. Do you believe in your product? You've taken VC money and put in $40k, so you must believe in it some. If you can't make a full-time commitment then it's probably time to step aside for someone else who can (as this will be best for the company). "Either sh*t or get off the pot."

Third: You are absolutely being compensated for your part-time work, even at $0. You have equity in the company, and presumably your ownership stake is growing in value. Of course it's hard to spend "paper wealth", but that's the founder's game. That should not be a surprise to you.

More than anything, I'm confused (and concerned) by your lack of commitment. If you believe in this venture, why would you NOT want to jump in full-time? If you have some other job and just don't want to give up the income, I suggest that you are not really committed, and it would be better for everyone to bow out gracefully and forfeit / sell most of your equity stake back to the CEO.

(updated: typo)


> it's entirely reasonable that the VCs want a full-time commitment before paying you.

I agree with this, but instead of being douchebags and wasting everyones time with stupid games, why dont they just say "look, we need a full time CTO, if you can't do it we need to find a replacement."

>You are absolutely being compensated for your part-time work, even at $0. You have equity in the company, and presumably your ownership stake is growing in value. Of course it's hard to spend "paper wealth", but that's the founder's game

Friendly reminder that equity is almost always worth $0 in a startup. Its absolutely ridiculous he made it this long without getting paid unless no one is.


Amazing in 2019 we still have these clueless tech founders running about. The idea guys of the world must be thrilled.

1) get a lawyer, 2) get a friend who has some vague idea how startups work who can patiently explain it to you. It's clear from your post that you have no idea what you're doing, and that you're being screwed.

You're not being treated like a cofounder, and you're not acting like one. (Nor are you being treated like a shareholder who invested 40k, quite honestly.) You're not ready to join full time a company you cofounded that just raised 2 million? What are you even talking about dude?


So I think you may have mixed up the acronyms here a little, as the post doesn't say CEO after the first mention.

But basically, I wouldn't ever work for free, and I'm just a lowly peon. Certainly not for a company with two million bucks in the bank. I don't understand how part-time or full-time status of any employee is relevant to whether or not you can be paid.


At some point in a startup, you need to be all-in. No half measures. That is how it works. So if the board wants you to join full-time as CTO, I don't see why that is an issue. You can be a part-time "employee" if you want, but you need to be a full-time CTO. It is about skin in the game. Either you are all-in or you are not.

Also, don' work for free. The startup is 3 years old and CTO still works without any pay ? Something is strange here.


What is the reason the CTO can't join fulltime?

I understand the investors thoughts that the CTO doesn't want to contribute fulltime, thus slowing the company down. CTO should be either replaced or joining fulltime. If CTO can't join fulltime for whatever reason he shouldn't be CTO but hold a lower position for which he could be paid part-time.


If VCs don't pay you then they're VCs who don't understand how to take care of their investment.

Part-time or full-time is a separate issue. Working for free or entirely for equity when there's money in the bank is a losing game.


Are you the CTO? You refer to the CTO in the third person in places here. In any case, the CTO, whoever it is, is being pressured to make a decision between being a CTO and doing whatever else they are doing.

Ok, but why would the CTO work for free even in a part time bases?

I'll join the company on a full-time basis.

During the transition period and while I am still part-timer, should I work without pay for a VC funded company?!

Why is there a transition period? I think that's actually the problem.

I would try to negotiate something for sure. If they refuse to pay a salary, try to get more equity.

But if the transition only lasts 2-3 weeks, it may not be worth the confrontation.


Ask the CEO to give you his board seat.



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