Unicorn tech salaries revealed: From $81,000 to $322,000 here's what engineers, data scientists and others are paid at 12 of the biggest startups

  • Business Insider analyzed salary information for hundreds of positions at 12 unicorn startups, aka private companies that are valued at more than $1 billion. 
  • Companies are required to disclose information about jobs they fill through the H-1B visa program, including how much they pay. That information is published each year by the The Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
  • This information concerned salaries paid for over 470 jobs at companies like Airbnb, Snowflake, Palantir, Robinhood and others.
  • The result of Business Insider's analysis is a rare look at how much unicorns are willing to pay for popular positions like software engineers, data scientists, and artificial intelligence workers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

With the pandemic still roaring, economic times are tough for a lot of businesses. But many of the most highly valued startups seem to be doing just fine. In fact, a growing list of unicorns, aka startups valued at over $1 billion, are planning on going public soon despite the larger economy's turbulence including DoorDash, Palantir, Airbnb, Snowflake and Unity Technologies.

So, if you wanted a tech job at one of these rising stars, what kind of salary could you expect to command?

To answer that question, Business Insider obtained and analyzed the 2020 H1-B visa salary data for over 470 positions filled by 12 unicorns: Airbnb, Asana, Doordash, Epic Games, Instacart, Magic Leap, Palantir, Robinhood, Snowflake, Stripe, UiPath and Unity Technologies.

Companies are required to disclose details to the federal government about the salaries they paid for the jobs they fill through the H-1B visa program, an important part of how Silicon Valley recruits talent from around the globe. The Office of Foreign Labor Certification publishes that information every year.

While the information that can be gleaned from this data is limited, it still gives a rare look into how much some of Silicon Valley's buzziest startups actually pay for various tech roles, no matter the location of the new hire.

"The immigration status of a candidate has zero impact on what we pay them," a UiPath spokeswoman told Business Insider. "We do not pay differently nor differentiate in any way a H-1B candidate versus other employees. All employees are paid to market and against internal benchmarks for their salary."

 In some cases, the data provided only a single salary and in others, it included a range of salaries. We included the range whenever we had it. Please note that the information presented here is for annual salaries only and does not include other forms of compensation like stock or bonuses. 

Check out how much 12 of the buzziest unicorns are willing to pay tech employees below.

Software engineers were paid as much as $322,000

By far the most common job that tech unicorns filled via overseas hires was for a "software engineer."

Out of the 472 roles these 12 unicorns filled with overseas applicants, 40% of them — 192 — were for some form of "software engineer" and the bulk of those — 143 — were for a "software engineer" of an unnamed specialty. Another 21 were for "engineering manager" of an unnamed specialty.

Across all companies, the range for salaries for software engineers of an unnamed specialty (aka, simply labeled as "software engineer") was $322,000 – $101,000. Here are salary ranges:

Engineering manager:

Airbnb: $303,250 – $204,499

Doordash $275,000- $240,000

Stripe: $268,800 – $227,802

Unity Technologies: $175,000 – $160,701 

Software engineer:

Airbnb: $264,750 – $130,000

Asana: $198,930 – $123,000

Doordash: $250,000 – $106,000

Epic Games: $208,438 – $166,750

Magic Leap: $161,829 – $116,126

Palantir: $205,000 – $115,000

Robinhood: $322,000 – $120,000

Snowflake: $215,000 – $119,122

Stripe: $220,000 – $119,122

Unity technologies: $158,000 – $101,546

Data Scientists were paid as much as $300,000

Not surprisingly, the unicorns on this list needed many people to manage their vast quantities of data; 27 of the jobs on this list were for "data scientists" working in unnamed specialties.

The highest paid data scientist was hired by Airbnb at a salary of $230,000. The highest paid position in this entire category was "Director of Engineering, Data" for Robinhood, at a salary of  $300,000—making it one of the highest-paid positions out of the 472 Business Insider surveyed.

Data scientist

Asana: $157,000 – $135,000

Airbnb: $230,000 – $128,000

DoorDash: $170,000 – $155,000

Instacart: $210,000 – $170,000 

Robinhood: $195,000 – $150,000

Snowflake: $180,000 – $89,898

UiPath: $190,000 – $110,000

Unity Technologies: $140,000 – $76,357

Other notable positions in data science:

Snowflake – Cloud Data Warehouse Engineer: $105,000 -$86,445

Robinhood -  Director of Engineering, Data: $300,000 – $200,000

Artificial intelligence engineers were paid as much as $247,200

Artificial intelligence, and its subset of machine learning, might be the next big technology to change the world. And unicorns were keen to hire scientists and engineers skilled in these areas. 14 positions were for AI or ML roles. Magic Leap also hired for several "computer vision" roles.

Machine learning scientist:

DoorDash: $200,000 

Magic Leap: $155,000

Stripe: $210,000

UiPath: $190,000 – $110,000

Unity Technologies: $185,210 – $113,381

Other notable positions in artificial intelligence:

Magic Leap – Computer Vision Engineer: $220,000 – $107,419

Stripe – AI Infrastructure Engineer:  $247,200

Backend, frontend and full-stack engineers were paid as much as $225,000

Unicorns were on the hunt for people to build their web and mobile products and infrastructure. Out of the 27 positions listed in this category, 16 were for some form of "backend engineer," a person who works on apps and technologies that run on computer servers.

Only two positions were for "frontend engineers"— those people who build the parts that consumers can actually see. Three were for full-stack engineers, people who can do it all. It was the backend engineer who commanded the highest salaries. 

Backend engineers

Stripe: $220,000 – $96,595

Unity Technologies: $225,000 – $117,770

Airbnb: $170,000

Frontend Engineers

Airbnb: $215,000

DoorDash: $181,000 – $144,040

Full stack engineers

Stripe: $200,000

Unity Technologies: $165,000 – $119,000

Customer-facing and monetization engineers were paid as much as $210,000

In jobs involving customer interaction, Palantir dominated. 27 of the 39 jobs offered in this category were for "forward deployed engineers," coders who deploy and work with Palantir's data-based software for clients.

The pay scale for a forward deployed engineer was wide, with Palantir shelling out anywhere from $207,900 to $110,000 a year.

Here are other notable positions in this category.

Unity Technologies – Senior Engineer, Monetization:  $200,000 – $156,749

Stripe – Software Engineer – Payments Product: $210,000

Snowflake – Solutions Architect: $167,000 – $128,856

IT, DevOps, security and infrastructure engineers were paid as much as $240,400

Many of the unicorns on this list also hired people from overseas to design and maintain their IT, infrastructure and production technologies.

This category included some of lowest paid positions on the list, including DevOps engineers hired by Unity's Massachusetts office for $99,000 to $81,141. Airbnb led the pack with some of the highest salaries in this category, including hiring one Systems Architect for $240,400 a year.

Infrastructure engineer

Snowflake: $150,000 – $137,259

Stripe: $220,000 – $117,770

Security engineer / manager

Unity Technologies: $205,000 – $165,000

DoorDash: $210,000

Robinhood: $195,000 – $125,000

Here are other notable positions in this category.

Unity Technologies – DevOps Engineer: $120,000 – $81,141

Airbnb – Systems Architect: $240,400

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.

Disclosure: Palantir Technologies CEO Alexander Karp is a member of Axel Springer’s shareholder committee. Axel Springer owns Insider Inc, Business Insider’s parent company.

Insider Inc.’s parent company, Axel Springer, is an investor in Magic Leap.

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