Better off Financially Working at Startups or Large Companies?

A recent TechCrunch article said:

"Mathematically, talented individuals are certainly better off financially going into a profession or working at a large tech company, where pay is higher and more secure."

I used to believe the same. However, in the last a couple years after seeing real examples of people I knew in person, I have become not so sure about that. Those examples include (with made-up names and gender):


  • Helen used to work in Microsoft. She joined a not-too-hot startup a couple years ago. The worth of her equity doubled from <$500K to nearly 1M in less than a year.

  • Frank recently took an offer from a local startup in Seattle which offer more than 10% higher base salary than what he earns in Microsoft, let alone stock options.

  • Bob recently told me that he has an offer from a near-IPO company in the Puget Sound area which offers him $200K base salary, which equals to the sum of base salary and annual bonus that he can get in Microsoft.

Financially, they all seem to be better off working for a startup than staying in Microsoft. So, is the TechCrunch article wrong (at least on the "higher" part)? To me, TechCrunch has pretty good creditability on the tech startup matter. The author and editors must have a lot more data, visibility and network resource than I do. So they must have a fuller picture and maybe my data set is too small.

How can I find the truth[1]? What about the Glassdoor model? I am not sure. Glassdoor is kind of close when it comes to finding the median of Microsoft salaries in the Seattle area. But unlike the base salary which is well defined and comparable across the board, the financial return of working at startups is far more complex.




[1] The reason why I am seeking the truth regarding whether mathematically it is better off financially working at a large tech company than a startup, is just for my curiosity ("There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity." -- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux). It's not going to make me neither more nor less lean toward a startup job. In fact, I had an offer from a late stage startup not long ago. I didn't go, though.
[2] I found two posts interesting: Startup employees don’t earn more and Big company vs. startup work and pay

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