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We use individual-level data to shed light on the evolution of founder-CEO compensation in venture capital-backed startups. We document that having a tangible, marketable product is a fundamental milestone in CEOs' compensation contracts, marking the point at which liquid cash compensation begins to increase significantly – well before a liquidity event. "Product market fit" also coincides with key human capital in the startup becoming more replaceable, marking an apparent transition in thedoi:10.31235/osf.io/rku3m fatcat:yiw7cjvuzvbopi5ljbaud3kog4