Jan 152014
happy guy with lots of money

One of the myths of the current cult of the entrepreneur is that everyone will be a winner as their startup gets bought out by Google for a billion dollars. The reality is life for a startup founder is a grind.

Startup Compass looked at 11,000 startups across the world to discover what founders really earn and the results show the reality of life when you’re starting up a business is that the wages are pretty poor.

In San Francisco, London and New York, the wages are piddling compared to the cost of living in those cities.

Low pay and business success

This is good news for investors though, as there’s a clear correlation between the success of a startup business and the salaries its key staff members draw – successful businesses are built on the back of founders ploughing everything into the venture.

It’s also high risk as a failed business can leave the founder with nothing to show for several years of hard work, something that’s overlooked by the ‘liberate yourself from your cubicle’ gurus advocating everyone starts up their own venture.

Australia’s high cost economy

Notable in the stats is the high rates demanded by Australian founders, more than 25% higher than their Silicon Valley counterparts and a gob-smacking 60% more than London or Canadian equivalents.

Australia’s high cost of doing business was emphasised last year where a comparison by Staff.com found Sydney was the second to Zurich as a place to base a tech startup. Worryingly, that survey didn’t consider owners’ drawings.

Part of Australia’s high wage requirements are no doubt due to the country’s lousy tax treatment of options and share plans but a bigger problem is property ownership – an Australian who hasn’t bought a home by 35 is destined to be one of the nation’s underclass.

So an Aussie entrepreneur has to earn enough to qualify for or service a mortgage, it also discourages Australians from starting even moderate risk ventures.

The consequence of the need to draw a high salary is that the proportion of investor funds that goes into founders’ wages is almost three times higher in Australia than it is in Silicon Valley. That’s a big disincentive for foreign investors to put money into Aussie startups.

If you wanted an example of how uncompetitive the Australian economy has become, this is a good start.

Regardless of where a startup is based though, the message remains that the road to a billion dollar buyout from Google or Facebook is not paved with gold.

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