The Southeast Asian startup ecosystem is entering a new golden phase as the tech market grows exponentially. Startup founders realise the importance of building solid teams, but they need to develop new forms of compensation to lure and retain talent roles. With few sources facilitating this information, compensation data was scarce until the Monk’s Hill Ventures Glints report shed light on this subject. 

Venture capital firm Monk’s Hill Ventures and talent development and recruitment platform Glints surveyed more than 175 tech and non-tech talent roles in startups in over 20 firms in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. The compensation data analysis also includes surveys from Glints’ senior recruiters and 1,000 data points for tech startup roles. 

Report’s insights

According to the salary data analysis from Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, tech roles, such as product management, data science and engineering, earn 54% more than non-tech roles, including marketing, operations, sales and finance. Big tech companies now offer open contracts to attract and retain potential candidates. They were pushed into this strategy after giants from the U.S. and China, like Zoom, Alibaba and TikTok, started hiring ASEAN high performers by almost writing blank cheques. In Singapore, for example, managers now earn a monthly salary of $4,500 to $6,000 USD.

Although engineering skills are essential and paid the highest in Singapore, specialised products and data science skills are more in demand. This situation has led to a significant difference in the base salaries between tech and non-tech roles. 

In the survey, less than 32% of the participants stated they received equity compensation. This shows a preference for cash over ownership, particularly among junior and mid-range occupations, where founders invest in educating their teams on its benefits. However, the case is different for CEOs, CTOs and other executive-level roles developed in a more mature ecosystem as they understand the equity compensation’s value.

Localised rules and benefits

The competition to attract and retain tech talent is arduous among startups and big companies. Some startups offer employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) with longstanding tech roles to encourage company loyalty. For instance, companies in Indonesia give a festive bonus equal to one month’s salary. Although they also offer a one-month Tet bonus in Vietnam, the salary difference between senior and junior positions in tech and non-tech roles is the highest among the three countries.

Likewise, the report remarked several startups see the benefits of a distributed talent strategy in remote places. This strategy allows team leaders to find talent across Southeast Asia, hire and keep them. Founders are conscious that solid work culture and a team-oriented approach are critical when retaining staff.

With Covid-19 modifying the market rules and the compensation benchmark, founders and leaders have adjusted to the new norm of staggered work schedules and remote-based roles. This work style can also be advantageous when building and developing teams with diversity in skills and talents.

Salary and compensation

According to the report’s salary analysis, CEO and CTO base salaries in the reviewed countries increased along with the amount of capital fundraised. The more the funding raised—mainly above $5 million USD—the higher these salaries rose.

Glints Monks Hill tech talent report

For example, the median base salary compensation for a CEO at $0 to $5 million USD funding stage is $2,600 USD monthly. At $5 million to $10 million USD, it increases to $6,000 USD; and at $10 million to $50 million USD funding stage, it reaches $11,250 USD or more. Meanwhile, for CTOs, their monthly median base salary at $0 to $5 million USD funding stage is $3,300 USD. At $5 million to $10 million USD stage, $7,550 USD; and at $10 million to $50 million USD, it increases to $12,400 USD.

Nevertheless, they observed that the median CTO base salary is consistently higher than the CEO. The latter are willing to sacrifice part of their salaries in the company’s interest as they consider them scarce but highly-valued assets.

Lastly, with regards to equity ownership, it is higher for CEOs during the company’s early stages but shrinks over time. For instance, at the $0 to $5 million USD funding stage, a CEO owns 15% to 100% equity. As the company reaches the $50 million USD stage, the CEO’s equity would have diluted to 6%. This is different for CTOs who own much less of the company’s equity.

With Monk’s Hill Ventures Glints report analysis, founders and team leaders have data and statistical support for detecting, hiring and retaining tech and non-tech roles. However, the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem is transforming as more remote competition for high-tech-performers enters the region. Managers have to figure out how to attract and keep their talent. Aside from compensation, Glints CEO Oswald Yeo highlights the potential of having a company culture that enhances the team’s values and behaviour. By creating a community at work, staff are more likely to stay.