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Because devs working for startups that pay heavily in equity are usually not making what they would make if they were paid 100% in cash.

Sometimes. Sometimes they are given equity (or options on the equity) - other times there is an "understanding"[1] about equity as happened in Toptal. Once you have equity... it's worthless, or near to - it only becomes valuable if the company does well... and if your effective equity isn't diluted in successive rounds - which it quite often is. You've surrendered a portion of your salary for a potential to get paid if the company does well (maybe) - and it's doing well is, in a large part, out of your hands. There is far too much good-faith being required from employees in these sorts of setups and, if everything goes as planned, why should you get a payday while the person who went to work for a perfectly good company that failed gets nothing? That could have been you!

1. So, some deceptively worded stuff that ends up being worthless.

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