When COVID-19 hit early last year, April Underwood, like all of us, watched in disbelief as small businesses in her town of San Anselmo were forced to scramble overnight and figure out how to stay alive. This trend, of course, was happening far and wide. Last fall, the WSJ reported on a study that found one in five businesses operating in January of 2020 had stopped transacting, and 40% of merchants surveyed at the time feared being out of business by year-end. The sector's impact is colossal: there are 30 million small businesses in the U.S. employing nearly 60 million people, and SMBs in aggregate drive nearly $6 trillion in U.S. GDP. Retail and wholesale SMBs comprise $850 billion of this.
Bringing these small retail businesses online is, of course, part of the solution. Amazon, Shopify, Square, and GV portfolio company Stripe enable this and have built some of the largest companies on the planet by modernizing e-commerce. And yet, in 2021, it's surprisingly hard to know where to go on the internet to discover the online equivalent of a town's Main Street shops. Now more than ever, consumers want to support these businesses. The next phase of e-commerce, April eloquently articulates, is one in which every local business is also an e-commerce company, and a whole new toolset is required to facilitate this at scale. Seeing this opportunity, April got to work and founded Nearby in the summer of 2020.
Her mission: empower small businesses and the people who love them. She and her team launched their first pilot marketplace, Keep Oakland Alive, in September and today are sharing their plans to launch in Austin, Charleston, and across the country through a scaled network of marketplaces. On Keep Oakland Alive, and soon on Nearby, you can find and shop from local businesses all in one cart. They deliver locally and ship nationwide. And merchants, local community leaders, and customers have been delighted.
April and the Nearby team fulfilling orders during the Oakland, CA pilot.
As part of this announcement, we're thrilled to share that GV co-led an investment in Nearby alongside Obvious Ventures and an incredible group of angel investors. April and I typically talk a few times a week, but last spring my phone started ringing a few times per day — and that's when I knew she was onto something big. April's experience as an executive at Slack, leading product and partnership teams at Twitter, and as a Board Director at Zillow give her a unique combination of insights into marketplaces, building software for business and consumers, and scaling first-rate teams. Seeing her extraordinary pace of execution up close the last seven months has been an inspiring validation of this.
Entrepreneurs are not just in Silicon Valley or even the tech industry — they're on every Main Street in the world.
On a personal note, this feels a bit full circle as April is a Google alumna, and I've been incredibly fortunate to have worked with her as a colleague at Twitter and as a co-founder of #ANGELS, where we've backed dozens of entrepreneurs together. Of course, entrepreneurs are not just in Silicon Valley or even the tech industry — they're on every Main Street in the world. We're inspired that April has taken up the mantle of serving them and proud to be her partner on the journey.