Startup founders don’t typically launch a company as a get-rich-quick scheme. Most know that it will be a long, hard slog if they are to succeed. There will be lean years where the money is tight, and where they may personally struggle to pay their bills. They do it because they believe in the mission and they want to build a successful company, where, if all goes well, they could end up with a healthy amount of money.
But it takes a lot of hard work, long hours, tough times and a bit of luck to find your way through to a successful outcome, however you choose to define that. Early on every dollar you give yourself is money that’s not going into the business, and while you don’t want to starve yourself, neither do you want to run out of money, and those early dollars are especially valuable.
While the ultimate goal is a successful exit, not everyone gets there, and it begs the question, how much is fair to take out in the form of salary, especially in the early years when money is tight, and at what point is it reasonable to sell a bit of equity to take some money out of the business and live a more comfortable life. There are no hard and fast answers.