Hi so a little background for this question. I am a student who works at a nearby tech start up. I have been working there for a year and have recently helped think of,develop, and deploy a new piece of technology for the company. I believe that I have proved my worth to the startup and want a bigger piece of the pie if what I helped create blows up. How should I bring this up to the CEO who I work closely with?

  • 2
    Casually ask him around, what do you need to do to get equity in the startup. You will get your answer. :)
    – Rishi Goel
    Sep 12 '17 at 4:43

This is a question that applies to all people not just interns. I am here putting up the basic thought process and then going on to your specific case.

1. Nature of reward:

You may ask for reward in general - reward may include, "one time incentive" or bonus, "increase in fixed pay", "increase in variable pay", "ESOP", or "equity".

Understand that each type of rewards has consequences for the company as far as current as well as future payout is concerned. So it is not at all obvious which way the company would agree to reward. Equity might be an easy bid when start up is close to day 1 and there is hardly any investment or revenue in place. However, otherwise the equity is something might be preferred last. Even to many employees ESOPs are given rather than direct equity.

So in all, this boils down to the founder's or managements comfort on how they want to reward. Be open to the mode they are willing to work on.

2. Amount of Reward:

What is also important is to establish how a 'given work' has implication to longer term earnings of the company that would justify the amount of reward. Given this, it is important that candidate's perception matches with that of managements. It may not be obvious that what you think might not be their top priorities. Put other way it is also important that you seek feedback about the effectiveness of the work -and quality of work- before talking about rewards. If they agree that your work has really shaped some strategic problems or is valuable in someway - then asking for reward becomes next obvious thing. if they don't quite think so, you know what to expect when looking for reward.

3. When

This is critical. Great ideas seldom makes money. They become instrumental when the real products meets real markets. And there are lot of things that need to go right. Not to disappoint, but what is important is that for you to maximise your possible reward - or to make it easier to get through, it makes sense to put across at right time. Typically, it means things are 'complete' in some sense, some 'real feedback' of trial is available or some results are proven in some manner.

Given all of the above:

Here is what I would suggest:

  1. Establish, the overall expectations - what you should have been doing, what; what is the critical evaluation of the work or what is the success criteria.

  2. Seek evaluation and feedback of work. What do they think of what you have done, what is the impact of that in business. What is the end value.

  3. Seek and agree on mode of reward - if only step 1 & 2 seems positive.

  4. Justify and speak for what rewards you expect or you think is fair. What you established in step 1 and 2 works well.

In all conversations - be open to view points of others and be assertive for yourself.

All of the above is common for all people - employees, third-parties or interns.

The biggest issue as far as you are concerned that being an intern - step 3 might have limitations. So it would be best that you let them choose the mode of reward - but be assertive about what you think you deserve.

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