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Employee Compensation in Entrepreneurial Companies


  • Ola Bengtsson
  • John R. M. Hand


Despite the central role played by human capital in entrepreneurship, little is known about how employees in entrepreneurial firms are compensated and incentivized. We address this gap in the literature by studying 18,935 non-CEO compensation contracts across 1,809 privately-held venture-backed companies. Our key finding is that employee compensation varies with the degree to which VCs versus founders control the business. We show that relative to founder-controlled firms, VC-controlled firms pay their hired-on (i.e., non-founder) employees higher cash salaries, provide stronger cash and equity incentives, and have more formal pay policies in place. We also observe that founder employees earn less cash pay and face weaker cash incentives than do hired-on employees, but have stronger equity incentives. We propose that the compensation differences we identify arise because the preferences and capabilities of controlling shareholders significantly influence the quality of the human capital attracted and retained by the firm.
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Suggested Citation

  • Ola Bengtsson & John R. M. Hand, 2013. "Employee Compensation in Entrepreneurial Companies," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(2), pages 312-340, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jemstr:v:22:y:2013:i:2:p:312-340
    DOI: 10.1111/gems.2013.22.issue-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Joanna Tyrowicz & Barbara Liberda & Magdalena Smyk, 2015. "Talent workers as entrepreneurs: a new approach to aspirational self-employment," Working Papers 2015-18, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    2. Dorner, Matthias & Fryges, Helmut & Schopen, Kathrin, 2015. "Wages in high-tech start-ups - do academic spin-offs pay a wage premium?," IAB Discussion Paper 201517, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    3. Dorner, Matthias & Fryges, Helmut & Schopen, Kathrin, 2017. "Wages in high-tech start-ups – Do academic spin-offs pay a wage premium?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-18.
    4. Henry Sauermann, 2017. "Fire in the Belly? Employee Motives and Innovative Performance in Startups versus Established Firms," NBER Working Papers 23099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Chua, Ansley & Nasser, Tareque, 2016. "Insider sales in IPOs: Consequences of liquidity needs," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1-17.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship


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