A Multiyear, Multi-country Research Initiative

Venture Forward quantifies the impact online microbusinesses have on their local economies.

microbusinesses across US, UK, AUS, Canada
small business owners surveyed since 2019

It all started in 2018

GoDaddy set out to analyze the economic impact of the 20+ million online microbusinesses our customers have created across the U.S. Our research team, working with economists and data scientists from the University of Iowa, Arizona State University, and UCLA Anderson Forecast, reviewed data from 30K+ zip codes, 3K+ counties and 900+ city regions in the United States.

We established microbusiness density by measuring the number of GoDaddy-registered domains with active websites in a geographic region (About 75% are commercial ventures and the rest are a combination of nonprofit, cause-oriented and other sites – all of which are included in the dataset).

When combined with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic Innovation Group, and others, this breakdown allowed us to model the effects of online microbusinesses on economic outcomes, like job creation; change in annual household median income; recovery from the 2008 recession, and unemployment at the county, city-region, and zip-code levels. Our regression models controlled for additional variables including broadband access; education levels; age; demographics; population; and occupational data to ensure the effects of microbusinesses were isolated.

That was only the beginning

In 2019, we began surveying the entrepreneurs who own these ventures in the United States, nationally and across cities, at least once a year. These surveys help us better understand their mindsets and circumstances.
In 2020, we built a proprietary Microbusiness Activity Index with economists at UCLA Anderson Forecast and created a data hub to update and share our data publicly, including measurements of microbusiness density by geography. We update this data on a quarterly basis.
In 2021, we expanded Venture Forward research to the United Kingdom to highlight the areas seeing the greatest growth of digital entrepreneurship and to learn more about these microbusiness owners. The data is offered at constituency-level.
In 2023, we hit a new milestone when we partnered with UK-based economics consultancy, Frontier Economics, on a landmark study to quantify how microbusinesses affect job creation, median annual pay, and even local GDP.
This year, 2024, we’re sharing new data at detailed-levels with monthly breakdowns of microbusiness growth in Australia and Canada, as well as survey insights on the entrepreneurs who start them. These are available down to statistical areas and provinces, respectively.

Frequently Asked Questions About Venture Forward

General Questions

Venture Forward is a research initiative that GoDaddy launched in 2018. It quantifies the presence and impact of online microbusinesses on their local economies, providing a unique view into the attitudes, demographics and needs of these entrepreneurs. Currently it spans the United States,United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. To date, we have surveyed more than 40,000 small business owners and regularly analyze data from more than 20 million ventures. Through the research, we discovered these businesses provide an outsized impact on local and broader economies. At GoDaddy, we believe in making opportunities more inclusive for all, and the better we understand entrepreneurs, the better we can support them.

Venture Forward defines a microbusiness as an entity with a discrete domain name and an active website, including any redirects. This can be a website for a company, non-profit, cause, or idea and may include services like email, online payments, or security. The dataset specifically captures ventures with at least the domain name as registered with GoDaddy. Most of these ventures employ fewer than 10 people.

The distinguishing characteristic of a microbusiness is a website, though many have a brick-and-mortar location as well. They may be full-time or side hustles, and many aren’t included in traditional government statistics due to being too new to have registered. Microbusinesses often go unnoticed despite being incredibly powerful drivers of economic activity.

Currently, we publish five primary datasets on our Data Hub, most of which are updated on a quarterly basis. These datasets are:

1. U.S. Microbusiness Density, or the concentration of microbusinesses at city, county, and state levels since 2019

2. U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index (a proprietary index developed with economists)
3. Survey Results for thousands of Entrepreneurs: in the U.S. and U.K.
4. U.S. e-Commerce data with industry insights
5. U.K. Microbusiness Density down to constituency

GoDaddy partnered with researchers from the University of Iowa, Arizona State University, and UCLA Anderson Forecast to ensure our data and impact analyses were conducted to the highest standards. The team utilized rigorous modeling and forecasting methodologies, controlled for a variety of variables known to influence economic outcomes, and applied the latest theoretical approach available. We conducted many cross-sectional analyses of household income, unemployment, and job creation. Each and every model was stress tested thoroughly. Additionally, microbusiness data were transformed in numerous ways, to see if approaching the subject from different perspectives would alter the findings before finalizing a conclusion.

Yes, Venture Forward publishes our data for free to download on the Data Hub.

If you have more questions on the data or to speak with the Venture Forward team, contact us here.

Microbusiness Density Dataset

Microbusiness density is the number of microbusinesses per 100 adults in the U.S., and microbusinesses per 100 people in the U.K.

The U.S. Microbusiness Density dataset provides aggregated results at the city center, Core-Based Statistical Area (CBSA), county and state-level. The U.K. Microbusiness Density dataset provides aggregated results at the parliamentary constituency level.

The U.S. Microbusiness Density dataset begins in August 2019. As a public company with a strong focus on privacy, our data is anonymized then aggregated and is published after earnings, so has a 2–3-month lag. For instance, Q2 data will be made available in early Q3. Within the downloadable dataset, we present monthly microbusiness density measurements.

No, to maintain the privacy of microbusiness owners, all data is anonymized and aggregated, and is not shared publicly at the ZIP-code level.

The process of measuring microbusiness density involves synthesizing data from several sources, some of which are outside of GoDaddy’s control. Structural changes to source data can have an impact on the identification and classification of an active microbusiness. Additionally, updates to population estimates will have an impact on the Microbusiness Density measurement.

US Microbusiness Activity Index Dataset

The Microbusiness Activity Index is a measurement tool that provides a unique view into the overall health of the microbusiness economy in communities across America.  The Index considers 3 subindices of this measurement of health: 

1. Infrastructure – measures how ready for microbusiness entrepreneurship an area is as indicated by the level of physical and intellectual infrastructure necessary to access and use the internet.

2. Participation – measures the overall penetration of microbusinesses in a community as indicated by the count – and change – in the number of GoDaddy microbusinesses and entrepreneurs in the area.

3. Engagement – measures the overall activity within the area’s microbusiness community as indicated by factors such as estimated site traffic, changes to business websites, link connectivity of the area’s microbusinesses, and more.

Indexed to the average community result as of April 2020, the Index provides a single weighted score for each community on a monthly basis that synthesizes all of the input variables described above. These scores can then be compared within a community over time to assess whether the overall health of the microbusiness economy in their area is improving or declining.  Similarly, scores can be compared across communities to provide insights into the relative strength of microbusiness economies. 

To provide even more powerful insights, we make the three subindex scores available to help advocates identify which part of the microbusiness economy could be contributing to the changing MAI score. 

Let’s look at Columbus, OH as an example: 

• The U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index score rose from 105.4 in April 2020, to 115.1 in March 2022. 

• The Infrastructure Subindex score rose slightly from 111.8 in April 2020, to 114.0 in March 2022. 

• The Participation Subindex score remained relatively unchanged from a score of 101.3 in April 2020, to 101.9 in March 2022. 

• Finally, the Engagement Subindex score rose significantly from 96.1 in April 2020, to 117.8 in March 2022.

Overall, Columbus showed appreciable improvement in the health of their microbusiness economy with their MAI score surging from 105.4 in April 2020 to 115.1 in March 2022. Both scores would indicate that Columbus was above the national average in April 2020, but that there was also a 10-point improvement in the overall health of the microbusiness economy in this metro. 

Furthermore, with the subindex scores available, one would be able to observe the significant improvement in the Engagement Subindex – growing from 96.1 in April 2020 to 117.8 in March 2022 – and assess that within Columbus, there was appreciable growth in the extent to which the metro’s microbusinesses were being utilized.

The U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index dataset provides coverage at the CBSA, County, State, and National level.

Yes. We have a white paper available that provides all the technical details behind the index. You can find the paper, authored by our partners at UCLA’s Anderson forecast here.

Entrepreneur Survey Results Dataset

The survey is a tool for developing a high-resolution profile of microbusiness entrepreneurs and the businesses they operate. Within this dataset there are over 29,000 (and counting) responses from business owners since 2019. The survey is conducted periodically through an online invitation and data collection form presented to qualified participants. A nominal incentive is offered to survey participants.

All participants are GoDaddy customers opted-in to surveys. Eligibility is determined by several factors including evidence that the respondent has an active microbusiness, the respondent has granted GoDaddy permission to send them emails, and residency in the target geographic area. The Venture Forward survey is currently only conducted in English, so non-English speakers are not currently invited to participate.

Survey participation invitations are emailed to a random sample of eligible respondents.

As of August 2023, Venture Forward has completed seven national surveys in 2019, 2020, 2021, two in 2022 (February and August), and two in 2023 (February and August). In addition, we have surveyed the U.K. twice. 23 different U.S. metropolitan areas have been surveyed for a deeper look into the attitudes and behaviors of entrepreneurs in those specific markets. Cities for which market deep dives are available in the survey dataset include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Boise, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Gilbert (AZ), Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Montgomery (AL), New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, and Seattle.

Within every survey you will find insights into microbusiness owner demographics, including gender, race, education, and ethnicity. In addition, you will also find insights into the requirements and challenges these business owners faced during their start-up, their aspirations for the business, and the role the business plays in their household income calculations.

Beyond demographics, we collect firmographic information that provides more context into the size and scale of the businesses and how they are composed. For instance, we consistently ask if these businesses employ others, the industry they operate in, whether they have a brick-and-mortar presence and estimated monthly income.

Parts of our survey instrument evolve over time to reflect current events. As such, not all questions are available for every survey. For instance, during the peak of COVID in 2020 we included a battery of questions about COVID, PPP, and other government support programs. Recently we replaced those questions in favor of a new set that covers awareness and access of local programs and corresponding attitudes about government support.

US Microbusiness Industry and Commerce Dataset

The Industry and Commerce data provides a window into the regional and industry trends in online transactions generated through microbusinesses.  Included are measures of web traffic, business age and market rankings for GMV (Gross Merchandise Value), orders and sellers.

Our Industry and Commerce dataset covers CBSA, city, county, and state levels.   

To preserve anonymity and to minimize the impact of outliers, any geographies comprised of less than 3 zip codes, or with a total population under 10,000 or less than 5 total zip codes are excluded from the dataset.

The U.S. Microbusiness Industry and Commerce dataset begins in August 2019. For business reasons our data will always be lagged by one calendar quarter.  For instance, Q2 data will be made available in early Q3.  Within the dataset we present monthly microbusiness density measurements.

Microbusiness owners using GoDaddy’s online commerce and website building applications are included in the Industry and Commerce dataset.

No, to maintain the privacy of microbusiness owners, as well as to avoid inferring anything related to GoDaddy’s business results, this data is only available as a ranking.