What is a fair salary in a Nordic-based startup?

Esben Poulsen
Feb 26, 2020 · 5 min read

One of the hardest things to do in business, is finding the right price. Whether it is the price of a product, a service, a company or simply the price of a great team. For a startup, finding the right team, and making sure that they stay satisfied and motivated, is crucial for successfully scaling the business. Offering the right salary is an important part of this equation, but, unfortunately, there is limited data and transparency on this topic today.

Arkwright X work and meet with talented startups every day. We follow the Nordic startup scene closely and know the highs, the lows and the many challenges new businesses must overcome on their way to success. Together with Danske Bank, and with the support of StartupLab and a range of fantastic partners across the Nordic region, we set out to gather the necessary data to get a better understanding of salaries in the startup scene, in each of the Nordic countries. This resulted in the Startup Salary Survey, which is a guide to help entrepreneurs, investors, candidates and others benchmark the price of startup talent.

In this post we wanted to share some of the salary benchmarks from the report, which we have found to be the very useful (no, we are not biased…). If you want to read the full report and lots of interesting findings, you can find it via the link below.

Link to full report
(don’t worry, it’s free)

Briefly about the study

Small disclaimer: The data presented below serves as a benchmark for annual startup salaries for each of the Nordic countries. Bear in mind that the data presented includes base salary and bonus only — not equity or other perks.

How we split the data

Data split 1: Seniority and Company size

  • CXO
  • Senior employee
  • Regular employee

Note: you can find the exact definitions of each of the subcategories in the appendix of the full report.

Company size, which is measured based on # of employees, is split into intervals of:

  • 1–10 employees
  • 11–50 employees
  • 50+ employees

Data split 2: Function and experience

  • Management
  • Technical
  • Sales
  • Business/Operations

Note: you can find the exact definitions of each of the subcategories in the appendix of the full report.

Experience is split into intervals of:

  • 0–4 years of experience
  • 5–9 years of experience
  • 10–14 years of experience
  • 15+ years of experience

Since we published the report in early 2019, we have received some great feedback on how the salary data is used. Startups, recruiters and candidates crosscheck the different data categories to create a range of what a fair salary for the specific position should be.

Let’s take an example of how this works:

  • We are a Norwegian company
  • We are approximately 30 employees today
  • We are looking to hire a ‘senior resource’ (which in the survey was defined as a ‘Head of unit/department’ or simply as a ‘senior resource’)
  • The person will work with Business / Operations
  • Preferably the person has around 5–7 years’ of working experience

What is a fair range for the base salary + bonus?

With the data given above, we would create the range based on the two rows highlighted below.

Thus, we would look at an annual salary range from 549.00 NOK — 605.000 NOK as a starting point.

Further, as we understand that salaries are affected by a range of factors, which aren’t shown here, such as relevant work experience and the offered equity package, we would look at the data distribution as well. This can also help us understand if the averages we are considering might be skewed by outliers.

Below, you will find the data for Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Important: be aware that once you start slicing the data, there will be a few splits where we either have no responses or very few (as you will see below), so always make sure to check the distribution in addition to the average figure to avoid being misguided by outliers.

Denmark

Finland

Norway

Sweden

What about a teaser for the full report?!
Ohh don’t you worry, I got you!

In addition to the benchmarking data shown above, the full report also includes:

  • Equity benchmarks
  • Working hours benchmarks and analysis
  • Salary comparison for men and women

I hope this post (or the full report) can be of just a tiny bit of help! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Arkwright X

Arkwright X is the place for aspiring startups to innovate…

Arkwright X

Arkwright X is the place for aspiring startups to innovate and develop. We accelerate your journey to success through a pre-seed capital injection, top quality working environment, strategy sparring & advice, and access to Arkwright’s extensive network

Esben Poulsen

Written by

Co-founder and Head of Arkwright X. Investing in and working with promising B2B software companies.

Arkwright X

Arkwright X is the place for aspiring startups to innovate and develop. We accelerate your journey to success through a pre-seed capital injection, top quality working environment, strategy sparring & advice, and access to Arkwright’s extensive network