I am employed at a biotech firm which is on the cusp of raising a new round of venture funding. My current salary is 160k due to a raise I received at the completion of the previous funding round on the basis of excellent performance. I am contemplating asking for a raise to 250k, which is very substantial (+56%). Based on the factors I enumerate below, does this appear justified?

  • My equity will be fully vested come January 2021; hence 'by default' I will experience a reduction in overall compensation at the current status quo. This could nominally be a very substantial reduction depending on the overall valuation of the company. I have not included the value of that equity in my salary above (160k), but it is a very large number of shares since I am an early employee.
  • I have transitioned laterally into a new role with higher impact. In that role, I am successfully managing a preclinical discovery project and can definitively make the claim that I 'saved' the project from failure. I am also assisting in the management of multiple clinical projects and have excelled in that role.
  • I have managed a subordinate and multiple consultants productively. These management relationships were formed subsequent to my prior raise.
  • I am an early employee (pre-Series A) with a good relationship with the CEO.

I have concerns about:

  • Whether or not it will be viewed as inappropriate if I potentially make a higher salary than other employees who rank above me, either directly or indirectly. For example, suppose I ended up making a higher salary than my direct manager; perhaps that could be awkward, if he knew. I don't know how much he makes, so it's difficult to evaluate this directly.
  • Whether or not the demand is unreasonable in general even for an exceptional employee.
  • 1
    @DarkCygnus My last raise was in January 2019. Since I know I am well paid relative to other employees, I make a practice of asking for raises only at the completion of funding rounds. Sep 17, 2020 at 6:24
  • 1
    @DarkCygnus It was from 120k to 160k (33.3%). It was offered to me directly (actually preempting any request on my part), and I did not negotiate. Sep 17, 2020 at 6:26
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?
    – gnat
    Sep 17, 2020 at 7:22
  • 1
    @gnat Not really, because it lacks the context unique to my specific situation. Sep 17, 2020 at 7:24
  • 1
    The whole world is focusing on Covid, if your company product is about Covid vaccine or its treatment, 250k is very reasonable. Otherwise, I would forget it if I were you.
    – Nobody
    Sep 17, 2020 at 8:04

2 Answers 2


Normally employees with significant equity are given revolving golden handcuffs- you get an RSU (or options) package when you sign up, and then around the 1 year anniversary you get a new (smaller) one on top. Then again on the 2 year. Etc. Thus you always have new shares coming due. If this isn't in place on you, either they figured the increase in value of the original grant was very high and you were hooked, or they screwed up.

You're welcome to try to negotiate that big a raise, I wish you luck. You may do better by negotiating a new RSU block though. Its a lot easier for a company to pay a big amount in stock than out of cash flow. It also shows you plan to stick around, as they'll likely put a 3-4 year vest on it.

Short of that it may be time for the next job- its not uncommon in tech to switch employers when the initial large grant is vested, as you've by then been there several years and would get a new grant and a raise at the next company.

  • "You may do better by negotiating a new RSU block though." I was going to suggest that. OP can use this as a negotiating tactic: ask for a new block, then offer to forgo it in exchange for a raise. Sep 20, 2020 at 19:38
  • I accepted this answer. Instead of negotiating 160 to 250, I instead negotiated 160 to 186, a substantial title promotion, and RSUs vesting over 4 years worth approx. 800k total at the current valuation (pre-IPO). Mar 10, 2021 at 0:57

I am contemplating asking for a raise to 250k, which is very substantial (+56%). Based on the factors I enumerate below, does this appear justified?

However you see it, a 56% raise is a big number (not impossible, though). Even more considering your previous raise was of 33%.

Given that you are about to finish the venture raising, and that you have gained new roles and responsibilities, it would seem very likely that they will offer you a raise, as you were before.

I suggest you wait until the venture raising is completed before attempting anything. If it were up to me, I would wait a reasonable time before asking for a raise, as I see it's likely they will offer you one without having to ask.

If they don't offer you one in that reasonable time, and you decide to ask for one, it would be "safer" to ask for a 33% raise again. If you decide to ask for more, be prepared to give reasons why you deserve such a significant raise, and also be ready to receive a possible counter offer.

  • From the standpoint of effective negotiation, I was thinking it would be better to myself propose a high salary then negotiate down rather than waiting for them to propose a salary then negotiate up. What do you think about that? Certainly if I "only" received, say, 230k instead of 250k, I don't think I would be particularly miffed... Sep 17, 2020 at 6:36
  • @MarcusEmilsson we have a highly voted and answered question for that one ;) Does the first person to mention a number in a salary negotiation lose?
    – DarkCygnus
    Sep 17, 2020 at 6:37
  • Thank you; given the advice there, which seems to suggest that the first to mention a number wins rather than loses, I am wondering why you suggest to 'wait a reasonable time' until they offer me one 'without having to ask'. Sep 17, 2020 at 6:39
  • @MarcusEmilsson read again... the top answer says, quote: "If you answer, then it can only go down. If they answer, then it can only go up. So yes, the first person to mention a number loses."
    – DarkCygnus
    Sep 17, 2020 at 6:41
  • @MarcusEmilsson furthermore, my suggestion in this answer is to wait for them to offer first. Not only may they even offer more than you were expecting or hoping for, but you won't even have to bother asking for another raise... you were relatively recently given a raise, and asking for one now may give the impression to some people that you may be in only for the money, or perhaps show a bit of greed from your part... we can see that it's more beneficial if they offer the raise first ;) you may end up with more and avoiding any misinterpretation of you being perceived as greedy.
    – DarkCygnus
    Sep 17, 2020 at 6:43

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