How To Use the Venture Forward Data Hub

 |  6 min read
Research overview

How To Use the Venture Forward Data Hub

Venture Forward makes 5 data sets publicly available to better understand microbusiness owners:

  1. U.S. Microbusiness Density. This unique and exclusive data set represents the number of microbusinesses per 100 adults in a geographic area.
  1. Entrepreneur Survey Results: U.S. & U.K. The Entrepreneur Survey results provide unparalleled insight directly from over 30,000 microbusiness entrepreneurs. Since 2019, our team has conducted these surveys six times in the US and 2 times in the UK, and have surveyed over 24 cities Use this data to inform policies, programs, and trends for diverse entrepreneurs across the United States and United Kingdom.
  1. U.S. Microbusiness Industry & Commerce (IndCom). This unique dataset ranks all the covered communities based on the number of sellers, orders, and gross merchandise value (GMV) observed, providing a new lens into how effectively microbusinesses are performing.
  1. U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index (MAI). Developed by economists at the UCLA Anderson Forecast in partnership with GoDaddy Venture Forward, the Microbusiness Activity Index tracks dozens of factors that impact the success of online microbusinesses – all captured in one composite score.​ The score is made up of three subindices: infrastructure, participation, and engagement.
  1. Great Britain Microbusiness Data. In 2021, Venture Forward expanded to include research on Great Britain, finding that, as in the United States, microbusinesses have a significant economic impact on their communities. In 2022, we continued our research and updated our findings.

Step 1: What is this data, and what can it be used for?

The U.S. Microbusiness Density Dataset

The purpose of downloading the U.S. Microbusiness Density dataset is to get a comprehensive insight into the quantity and distribution of active microbusinesses across the country at several geographic grains, including: CBSA, county, state, and national levels normalized by population. Microbusiness density measures the number of microbusinesses per 100 adults in each geographic region. We update this dataset quarterly, so the data will always be lagged by one quarter, which is the most recent activity available. Learning where microbusinesses are accumulating geographically delivers information about where these owners see the most opportunity, and how these patterns change over time.

Entrepreneur Survey Results

If you’re interested in learning who these microbusiness entrepreneurs are, more about their needs, challenges, and goals, you’ll want to download and investigate Venture Forward’s Entrepreneur Survey Results. These surveys cover both individual cities as well as the entire country and began in 2019. Surveys are carried out via online invitation to qualified participants including U.S. residency, an active domain with services, and an English-speaking owner. A total of 29 surveys have been conducted to date, and we have collected a total of 21,000 responses from microbusiness owners. Questions found in the survey cover a range of topics from COVID-19 to the current negative macroeconomic factors such as inflation, interest rates, and domestic/foreign supply chain issues. These data can be leveraged to inform policy and programs, and to better understand the mindset of these entrepreneurs.

U.S. Microbusiness Industry & Commerce (IndCom)

To uncover commercial activity trends across multiple geographic designations you can download Venture Forward’s newest addition to the Data Hub, the U.S. Microbusiness Industry and Commerce dataset. This unique dataset ranks all the covered communities based on the number of sellers, orders, and gross merchandise value (GMV – total dollar sales unadjusted for inflation) observed, providing a new lens into how effectively microbusinesses are performing. Each geography’s top 3 industry categories, average observable web traffic, and the average microbusiness age (measured in months) are also included to provide users with more in-depth analysis of the microbusiness environment. 

U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index (MAI)

When trying to compare your own region’s strengths and weaknesses to neighboring areas, download the U.S. Microbusiness Activity Index to shed light on key performance metrics. Developed by economists at the UCLA Anderson Forecast in partnership with GoDaddy Venture Forward, the Microbusiness Activity Index tracks dozens of factors that impact the success of online microbusinesses – all captured in one composite score. Three subindices comprise the composite score: infrastructure, participation, and engagement. In addition to comparing scores across county, metropolitan, state, and national levels, this tool can also be used to measure how a region’s performance has changed over time, and what factors may be contributing to observed changes. 

Great Britain Microbusiness Data

For those favoring tea over coffee (or to get a perspective outside U.S. borders), we expanded our research in 2021 to include Great Britain. Covering England, Scotland, and Wales, the 632 constituencies included feature the count of microbusinesses, the total population, their parliamentary members, party identification (11 possible values), and microbusiness density per 100 people. These data, which are similar to the U.S. microbusiness density dataset, can be used to generate insights regarding the presence of microbusinesses in the United Kingdom. 

Step 2: Find and download

Go to the Venture Forward Data Hub and on the left hand side of the screen under a bold “DATASETS” you’ll see each of the 5 data sets. Once you click on the tab (U.S. Microbusiness Density is the default), scroll down and you’ll see “Download Data”, “Download Dictionary”, and “Download All”. To save yourself time, click ‘download all’ for each of the 5 datasets. Each dataset’s corresponding dictionary explains the meaning of each variable and can be helpful when the variable names aren’t very intuitive. Entrepreneur survey questions have variable names such as Q20_b, where a dictionary will be helpful.  

Step 3: Load into statistical/spreadsheet application to begin Generating Insights

Once you’ve downloaded a dataset you’re interested in learning more about, the next step is to decide what tools you’ll use to work with your data. Depending on your experience and your goal, a wide variety of tools exist to help get the job done.  

Excel is one of the most widely available applications for working with data and is used by many companies as it comes with all Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Spreadsheets provide the ability to sort, analyze, visualize and perform statistical analysis on data and do not require knowledge of coding or programming languages. Thousands of hours of videos have also been created to help you learn more about various features and functions available to Excel users. All of the Venture Forward data is downloaded in CSV format from our data hub and will open with Excel and similar spreadsheet applications.  

Charts and graphs needed 

The charts below are examples of what can be accomplished using CBSA level data.  

Although Breckenridge, CO is in the Micropolitan category (population <= 50K), their entrepreneurs are having an outsized impact on the community. The microbusiness density of Breckenridge is roughly 6x the national average. Baltimore, MD has almost 100x the population of Breckenridge but 1/3 the number of microbusinesses per 100 people. Tuscaloosa, AL is closest to the national average but experienced a decline that started in October of 2021 and has yet to recover.  

The MAI Composite score shows that Breckenridge, CO is significantly leading the national average. This could be evidence that local incentives and policy are playing a role in driving the score higher. Baltimore also consistently outperforms the national average when looking at MAI composite factors. Tuscaloosa, AL mostly keeps pace with the national average while experiencing occasional dips. The trend across the country however, seems to be positive with most CBSAs exhibiting similar or identical patterns over time. 

Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) measures the total sales revenue in dollars, unadjusted for inflation and assigns a rank for each population category. A lower rank indicates better performance and each group isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison because they contain different totals. The top 100 metros have 100 cbsas, while middle metros contain 496, and there are 330 micropolitans. Breckenridge, CO is again the top performer as several months are observed where the CBSA ranks in the top 50. Tuscaloosa has the largest range, with the best months in the top 20th percentile of middle metros and the worst months in the 60-70th percentile. Interestingly Tuscaloosa seems to have it’s best months at the beginning of the year 

These are just some of the ways you might use the data to build context and understanding around the different geographic granularities we make available.  

How are you using the data? We love feedback from people who use Venture Forward resources in their own work. Reach out and tell us about it at