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Pandemic boosts profits for Big Tech

Internet domain registrar GoDaddy recently launched an initiative to support small businesses forced to close their physical spaces because of COVID-19.

Called #OpenWeStand, the collaboration also involves Silicon Valley heavyweights PayPal, GoFundMe and Salesforce — which have been thriving despite the coronavirus, reaping profits from helping their customers focus on digitization.

#OpenWeStand.org provides tools, widgets, resources and blogs for small businesses to use during the lockdown phases of COVID-19. The underlying goal of the initiative, its backers say, is helping small businesses keep their digital doors open while their physical ones are closed.

For example, GoDaddy’s revenue was up 11.5% year-over-year, according to its Q1 2020 earnings results. The company also plans to buy back $500 million of its own stock, which analysts say suggests the company believes it is undervalued.

“GoDaddy delivered strong results in the first quarter,” said GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani. “In this time of uncertainty for small businesses, we are laser-focused on innovating for our customers; their digital presence is more important than ever. We believe our focus on customer value remains the best way to create value for our shareholders.”

Similarly, PayPal said it added 20.2 million new accounts in the first quarter of this year as businesses pivoted to it and similar online payment solutions due to COVID-19.

“As our platform sees record increases in both new customer accounts and transactions, it is clear that PayPal’s products are more important and relevant than ever,” said PayPal CEO Dan Schulman. “The strength of our customer value proposition combined with the significant acceleration of digital payments in April resulted in increased demand and engagement.”

During COVID-19, PayPal waived some fees for merchants, at least through June 30. Furthermore, it deferred business loan and advance payments, at no additional cost. PayPal also participated in the Paycheck Protection Program for small business access to federal loans under the CARES Act.

Among the small businesses featured by #OpenWeStand.org is Kendall Antonelli’s Austin, Texas-based cheese shop, which gets some exposure in GoDaddy’s #OpenWeStand television commercial.

Kendall and John Antonelli serve customers at their popular “Antonelli’s Cheese Shop” in Austin, Texas. (Courtesy: Amber Kissner/GoDaddy)

That has helped draw attention to Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, and Antonelli appreciates the Internet giant connecting her small business to other resources.

“Now, we feel like the cheerleaders behind us want to see us succeed,” said Antonelli. “The people at GoDaddy said, ‘Hey, here’s an awesome opportunity we think you’d be interested in. If you are, fill out this form.’ We did and got approved. It’s called Fortune’s Rebuild Program, which brings small business owners from across the country to learn from leading experts and each other.”

A cheese sampler from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin, Texas. (Courtesy: Kendall Antonelli)

Her shop quickly pivoted to virtual cheese events, which have turned out to be very popular. The shop hosts up to four virtual events per night; at least two events per week have at least 150 virtual attendees.

“We were in danger of losing 50% of our revenue, so we took those [events] virtual overnight,” said Antonelli. “The pandemic has been a vortex, a whirlwind and challenging. That said, we’ve been very fortunate, and so far, managed to stay ahead of the game.”

#OpenWeStand is also providing a morale boost for companies like Antonelli’s. “It’s always hard… how you quantify these things,” said Antonelli. “We’re grateful to them for the coverage and opportunity. It could very well be a part of our current success.”

(Edited by Blake French and Matthew Hall.)

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