I'm the technical co-founder/CTO of a B2B startup. I created the product, our design, etc 6 years ago. Our board hired a CEO 4 years ago and they've been trying to get VC funding since they joined. They come from a very enterprise-heavy background/successful startups. We're successful with our customers which is why we've been able to stay afloat for so long without VC funding (we have taken other grants, though).
It has only been myself and another developer that I hired ~3 years ago (a friend that worked at the same company as me before) doing the development side of the company. I'd classify this other developer as "intermediate". Our company is close to getting $5 million in VC funding by early September. Or, that seems to be where the goal post has been moved to.
I have not had a salary increase in 3 years. I know that my salary for my skills/contributions is significantly lower than market rate. I have only about 2% of equity (or lower, see the comments of this question). I have received offers from other companies and I know I could be doing much better salary-wise... but my heart is very much in this product that I've created and I've been "holding out" for the VC funding.
The CEO has "promised" that once we get VC funding, my salary will "be adjusted accordingly". They have not mentioned actual numbers.
However, I've gotten pressure from the CEO that we need to start hiring more developers to scale/show the VCs why we need the money. We discussed hiring by market rate (or slightly more) because this job is more demanding than a typical "developer" enterprise job. The CEO says that we can pay by region as well (though, I disagree and think all developers should make equal pay regardless of where they choose to leave -- we shouldn't penalize that choice).
So, the CEO wants me to hire someone by end of April at market rate. I brought up that before we do this we need to make adjustments to both my salary and the other developers salary. The CEO laughed and said "welcome to management... I've been hiring people 2x my salary for all my previous companies... this is what management does!". They then explained: "all joking aside, there will be adjustments made with VC funding". They explained that they can't go to the board with adjustments because the money is physically not there. As a side note: I'm in the middle of also getting a $250K grant from the government that begins early May.
The CEO comes from a heavy sales/marketing background. Another point to this whole story is that other sales people/account executives that are being hired have 1.5x my salary.
I'm feeling very frustrated and hurt by this situation because I feel like I've created something and I don't have control of the compensation that I believe I should receive if this CEO wasn't the one running things.
I think both myself and the other developer should have salary increases before hiring any new developers and then on top of that I think I should be paid more because of the work that I did/still do as the creator as well as the "senior" developer.
What do I do?