A multiyear research effort
Venture Forward quantifies the impact online microbusinesses have on the U.S. economy
We established microbusiness density by measuring the number of GoDaddy-registered domains with active websites in a geographic region. (About 75% are commercial ventures, with the rest a combination of nonprofit, cause-oriented, and other sites; all are included in the data set.) Data was further divided to indicate the microbusinesses within a region that are highly active.
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 regional prosperity scores, change in annual household median income, recovery from the Great 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.
We regularly expand and update the Venture Forward data set and findings. So please check back for our latest research and insights.
For more information about our methodology, see FAQs below.
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Venture Forward FAQs
This multiyear research initiative by GoDaddy measures the impact of microbusinesses across the U.S. Our results reveal the outsized economic impact of everyday entrepreneurs and lay the groundwork for policy makers and elected officials to build stronger, more inclusive local economies.
A microbusiness is defined as a business with fewer than 10 employees and is an entity with a discrete domain name and an active website. This can be a website for a company, non-profit, cause, or idea and may include services like email, online payments, or security. We estimate there are around 45 million microbusinesses in the U.S.
Our dataset specifically considers microbusinesses with at least the domain name registered with GoDaddy. As of July 2022, we track approximately 20 million GoDaddy microbusinesses.
The distinguishing characteristic of a microbusiness is a website. Some small businesses with websites are included in our count of microbusinesses. But our dataset also includes many businesses that operate online only, that are side gigs for their owners, or that have never registered with a government entity, and thus aren’t included in official measures of small businesses.
Currently, we make available five primary datasets. In combination, this data provides an unparalleled lens into microbusiness entrepreneurship across America. These datasets are Microbusiness Density (US), U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index, Entrepreneur Survey Results: U.S. National and Cities, Great Britain Microbusiness Data, and U.S. Microbusiness Industry and Commerce data.
GoDaddy partnered with researchers from the University of Iowa, Arizona State University, and UCLA Anderson Forecast to conduct this study. If you are interested in partnering with Venture Forward, we would love to hear from you at email@example.com.
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 is the number of microbusinesses per 100 adults in a geographic area.
The U.S. Microbusiness Density dataset provides aggregated results at the Core-Based Statistical Area (CBSA), County and State level.
The U.S. Microbusiness Density 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.
No, to maintain the privacy of microbusiness owners, all data is anonymized and aggregated.
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.
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.
The U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index dataset begins in April 2020. 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 Index measurements.
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.
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 21,000 (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. 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 July 2022, Venture Forward has completed 5 national surveys in 2019, 2020, 2021 and two in 2022 (February and August). In addition, we have surveyed 23 different metropolitan areas 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 color 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.
Similar to the U.S. dataset, the Great Britain Microbusiness Density file is the number of microbusinesses per 100 adults in a geographic area. In this case, the geographic designation is the constituency.
The Great Britain Microbusiness Density (UK) dataset begins in March 2020 and provides monthly observations through March 2021.
Currently there are no plans to update this dataset.
No, to maintain the privacy for microbusiness owners, all data is anonymized and aggregated.
The process of measuring microbusiness density involves synthesizing data from several sources, some of which are outside of the control of GoDaddy. 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.
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, and to obscure GoDaddy business results we do not make public, this data is only available as a ranking.
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