BY Tony Xu in TechCrunch
I come from a small-business family. My mom has owned three small businesses; most recently, a medical clinic in the South Bay. But it was in her first business, a Chinese restaurant outside Chicago, where I saw firsthand the challenges facing small-business owners.
When politicians say that “small businesses are the backbone of America,” it’s no exaggeration. The latest U.S. Census data shows that 90 percent of all businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 20 employees, and 99.9 percent have fewer than 500. Small businesses provide 55 percent of the jobs in the U.S., and that number hasn’t changed significantly in the past century. It’s safe to say the U.S. economy wouldn’t run without small businesses.
Unfortunately, for most of its life, Silicon Valley has failed to address this critical segment of the economy. Sure, there are the few exceptions: Square helps them take money without relying on cash; Expensify lets smaller companies act a bit bigger; Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) helps them with benefits and payroll; Weebly helps them build a site. All these services add value to a small business’ bottom line.
But these are all supporting ongoing business operations and finding ways to cut costs, rather than adding a real way to make money. And many startups aren’t even focused on small, local businesses at all. So why is Silicon Valley ignoring the biggest segment of businesses in the country?