It does not matter if you work at Foursquare, Square, LinkedIn, or Google as a software engineer, the odds are that you will still be making around the same amount of money. The difference is that Square and Foursquare has to aggressively compete against the salaries at public companies like Google and LinkedIn to hire some of the best developers. This is a huge change from the 1990’s dot com boom when startup developers were paid much lower salaries and no annual cash bonuses. They were given fat equity awards instead.
A software developer engineer at a private company would have gotten an average of $95,600 in annual salary and cash bonuses in 2001. This is 88.2% of the average $108,400 someone would have been given at a public company during the same time. Today a software applications engineer at a private company would get an average of $137,500 in salary and cash bonuses, which is just above the $137,000 that someone in the same job at a public company would make according compensation consulting firm Radford in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Radford vice president Brett Harsen said that Silicon Valley companies are being more aggressive with cash compensation since equity packages aren’t as attractive any more. “Private companies used to be able to hype the potential of stock, so people took less cash,” said Harsen. “But that perception [of stock] isn’t there anymore, so cash compensation has come up.”
San Mateo recruiter Robert Greene is known for placing engineers at startups. He said that salaries for engineers at closely held Silicon Valley companies have grown 20-30% in the last two years depending on experience. The salary range has been between $100,000 to $160,000.