Complete helps startups think through the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of employee pay

For early-stage startups looking to hire new talent, it’s not enough to make one-off decisions about pay as each new employee comes on board. Constructing a coherent philosophy around compensation is crucial for a company to stay consistent in the long term and provide transparency to employees — essentially, coming up with the “why” and “how” behind salary decisions.

In today’s job market, where layoffs and hiring freezes abound, getting compensation strategy right is even more important, CEO Rani Mavram of HR tech startup Complete told TechCrunch in an interview.

“Even if companies are hiring fewer roles, the importance of getting that higher right becomes increasingly more important,” Mavram said.

Complete aims to help companies, particularly early-stage startups, conceptualize and implement a firm-wide compensation strategy, reflective of cash, equity, bonuses and benefits.

Screenshots of Complete's compensation strategy platform

Screenshots of Complete’s compensation strategy platform Image Credits: Complete

“We work with them on [questions like], are you going to do negotiable offers or non-negotiable offers? Are you going to give your candidates multiple options as you think about raises and bonuses? Is that something tied to performance, or are you going to do that by default for everybody? So within these broader segments of compensation, we distill them down and then help them connect to what is right for their company,” Mavram explained.

Complete provides an interactive offer letter product for candidates applying to roles at its client companies and recently began offering a similar product to help employees understand what comprises their total compensation, Mavram said.

Mavram cofounded Complete with CTO Zack Field last year and took the company through Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 cohort. Mavram used to work on the product team at Google, while Field’s background is in engineering at various late-stage startups, including Uber and Opendoor, the pair told TechCrunch.

Mavram witnessed her team at Google grow rapidly and navigate the challenges of getting the “compensation narrative” right, she said.

“Even after I left Google, I was trying to think more about if the Googles of the world are experiencing this pain, what does this feel like to a early stage startup was just starting to have this conversation for the first time?” Mavram mused. 

Field, meanwhile, saw his employers go from private to public and ended up becoming the go-to source among his colleagues for information about how to understand their equity compensation because he had done so much research on the topic, he said.

“For some of our early stage clients, they don’t even have levels set up — like they don’t even have a software engineer one versus a software engineer two. And so that’s one level of education that when they have developed that philosophy they can share it back with employees. I would say that the fidelity of information that we’re most focused on is actually how your compensation is constructed, or what we call total rewards,” Mavram said.

The company just announced it has raised $4 million in seed funding led by Accel. Other participants in the raise include Y Combinator as well as angel investors from Calm, Opendoor and Stripe, according to Complete.

It is far from the only startup working on demystifying compensation decisions. Series A startup OpenComp has a similar product geared toward high-growth companies looking to improve their recruitment and retention, while similarly YC-backed Compound seeks to help tech employees understand their own compensation.

“Compensation is one of the ways that individuals develop trust with their employer,” Mavram said. Companies that are proactive about compensation decisions and that prioritize transparency can harness their compensation strategy into a competitive advantage, she added.

Complete hopes to further expand its support for the administrative tasks involved with making a new hire, Mavram said.

Oftentimes with young startups, founders themselves are the ones thinking through decisions about how much equity to offer a new hire, so Complete’s product aims to help them understand how different paths would impact their business and capitalization. Complete currently focuses on helping companies create a rationale behind their compensation decisions, though companies ultimately can still choose what parts of that information they want to share with their employees.

Mavram hopes to expand Complete’s five-person team by bringing on more engineering and design hires to help the company keep up with new customer demand, she said. Complete works with large customers including Vercel and DataStax as well as earlier-stage companies such as Convex and TrueNorth. Although Mavram declined to share how many customers Complete works with in total, a spokesperson for the company said it has provided analysis for several thousand salaries.

“Long term, I hope that every company has a compensation philosophy, or [knows] what it means to comp,” Mavram said. “I would hope that success for us looks like, every company we work with, or even more broadly, in the startup space, has one of those on their website, whether it be on their careers page or next to their privacy policy, and that becomes the status quo of what it means to have thought this through.”

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