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VC Pay Surged Again in 2021, but Future Jumps Are in Jeopardy

Photo: Art by Mike Sullivan

It’s hard to find venture capitalists right now who aren’t telling their startups to tighten their belts. But when will venture firms start tightening their own belts?

Pay for venture capitalists has increased steeply in recent years as venture funds have exploded in size and  nontraditional investors like Tiger Global Management have invaded their turf, bringing with them rich compensation packages for their investing staff. Median cash pay for a partner at a VC firm, including base salaries and bonuses, rose 10% to $928,000 in 2021 alone, according to Holt Private Equity Consultants, which publishes an annual report on compensation in the private investment sector. Partners are typically in the middle tier of venture firms in terms of compensation, below managing general partners and above associates and other staff.

But the days of broad increases in pay could come to an end after a record 13-year bull run, which saw U.S. VC funds raise $730 billion. One big reason: Raising new venture funds as big as those in the recent past, and doing so as frequently, is likely to get much tougher in a bear market. Smaller funds, in turn, are likely to translate into smaller management fees—which typically equal about 2% of the capital limited partners pledge to a venture fund.

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