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Lightning AI hires transparently with Carta Total Comp data

Alex Rose
VP of People & Operations

Lightning AI


Carta Total Comp

Company size




Founded in 2019, Lightning AI offers a platform for building and training machine learning models at scale. Historically, to develop these complex models, people needed extremely powerful and expensive computing resources—which were a barrier to entry. Lightning AI gives access to these resources in the cloud so researchers and technologists can develop algorithms and train their AI models where and when they want.

Like many early-stage startups, when it first began hiring, Lightning AI relied on a time-consuming process that required the team to manually search for compensation data for each role. The startup’s VP of People, Alex Rose, began rethinking this process amid what she calls a “seismic shift in compensation.” Competition in the industry had intensified, and she needed to streamline recruiting and leveling so they could hire faster and retain top talent while ensuring pay equity across the board. To do so, she needed constant access to the latest compensation data. She tapped Carta Total Comp to gain the data needed to implement efficient hiring and promotion processes.

Total Comp helps us look at data from companies in our valuation range to make sure our compensation philosophy is competitive and fair. It has become integrated into every stage of the employee life cycle at Lightning AI.

Alex Rose, VP of People & Operations
Lightning AI

Using Transparency to Stay Competitive

In such a tight labor market, Lightning AI needs to be able to hire and promote the best talent quickly. After years working at early-stage startups, Alex knows it’s important to be armed with data—to eliminate uncompetitive offers, to secure top-tier candidates, and to give team members clarity about raises and promotions. Candidates and employees alike want to know that they’re receiving fair compensation that reflects their impact.

Alex explains, “Total Comp gives us a competitive edge because it helps us to transparently explain our compensation philosophy and the data behind it.” This is especially true when it comes to equity, because instead of basing equity grants on averages provided by investors or compensation surveys, Alex is able to “point to the data from over 20,000 companies upon which Total Comp data is based to educate candidates and employees on how they should think about their stock options.”

After a successful hire, the next focus for the People team is to help the employee progress to the next stage of their career. “At Lightning AI, team members can move forward in their career with confidence, knowing they have a clear plan for how to move up in the company and what that means for their compensation,” Alex says. The startup uses Total Comp to build leveling guides for different roles, including clear compensation bands so that employees know what to expect once they reach specific professional milestones.

Saving Lightning AI Time

While Alex notes that it typically takes at least two quarters to launch this type of HR initiative, Total Comp was fully implemented within weeks and worked seamlessly right out of the box. This allowed her to get competitive offers out to top candidates quickly in a fast-moving hiring market. Being able to swiftly decide on the appropriate salary and equity packages and communicate them to candidates lets Lightning AI’s People team free up time in the hiring process and convert the best candidates to employees faster.

Alex opens Total Comp every day to stay current on changing salary and equity trends, and elevate the candidate experience beyond the salary negotiation. But she’s also noticed that her workflow is simpler as well. “Now I can focus more on coaching managers, walking them through the process, and making sure the interview feedback is good. I don’t have to worry too much about determining compensation for new or existing employees in the performance process, because I know it’s going to be fair.”

Before using Carta, Lightning AI’s CEO was involved with compensation decisions for each new hire. According to Alex, “implementing Total Comp had the unintended effect of also streamlining our whole offer process because we could introduce automatic offer approvals and no longer rely on the CEO for the final decision. It has given us the structure that we needed to drive the hiring process independently.”

With Total Comp, Lightning AI has built the trust Alex and her team need to make competitive offers and retain the best talent. Alex concludes, “Total Comp helps my recruiting team move forward with confidence.”

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