I've been debating this though for a while. Is it worth it to go for a principal role (61 -> 62 -> 63 -> 64) or just go and build something your own
As someone who's trying to build their own startup right now, building your own startup is 100x harder than any promotion at any company.
In terms of whether it's worth it, this entirely depends on you and what your priorities are. There are many good reasons to build a startup:
What I will say is that if you think startups are an easier path to a very high total compensation vs. getting promoted to very senior levels, I don't think that's going to pan out the way you want, haha.
I actually made a video behind my thought process quitting my nice job at Robinhood and starting Taro. You can watch it here: "How did you decide to quit your job and make a startup?" - 9/13/2022
It's worth clarifying what you mean by "build something on your own". In most cases, if you're optimizing for compensation, it's really, really hard to beat the promotion ladder at Big Tech. If you get to the senior staff or director levels, you can easily make $1M+ in total compensation at places like Meta, Google, or a newer company like Airbnb.
In the video I talk about a few paths engineers may consider when doing something on their own:
Your time is extremely valuable as an engineer -- use it wisely!!