Today marks the beginning of "National Small Business Week," the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) 50th annual celebration of the essential contribution of entrepreneurs and small business owners to American innovation and economic growth. The courage to create something new; the passion for entrepreneurship; the belief in the power of a good idea -- these qualities have always fueled progress and prosperity in this country. Small wonder, then, that a recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans would rather patronize a small business.
I've been an entrepreneur since I was 23 years old when I launched my first startup. The struggles and challenges I faced during that time still inform who I am and what I do today, and even now while leading a large company like PayPal, I often look at problems and opportunities through the lens of a startup owner. Two weeks ago, I spent an inspiring day visiting small businesses here in San Francisco and felt first hand their pressures, challenges and passions -- which took me back to my early days.
There is evidence that the entrepreneurial instinct in the United States has declined noticeably in recent years. In 1982, one in five workers in this country was employed by a company that had been in business for less than five years. By 2011, the gap had increased to one in nine. Meanwhile, for the first time on record, more Americans work for companies with more than 500 employees than for those with fewer. This shift isn't good for anyone, especially for everyday consumers. Big businesses have advantages that come with greater scale and global reach, but in looking back it's clear the vitality of our national economy was built on a thriving small business sector. This is where companies are nimble and better in touch with their customers and local communities. It is also where small business owners' passion has the power to transform our economy.
Alongside this shift, the American shopper has drastically changed their habits in just a few years. People are mobile and so are their shopping behaviors whether they are paying online, at home, walking down the street or in the physical store. It's time for small businesses to seize the day and quickly adapt to these changes, being able to grow their business, and compete now and in the future.
In a competitive retail market, small businesses cannot afford to miss sales opportunities because they are not able to process a mobile payment or only accept cash. These businesses need to implement flexible technology that both meet the growing needs of today, and those yet foreseen in the future.
What I am most excited about is the opportunity to add value to the consumer and merchant payment experience. Think of it this way... remember a time when you last walked into a local store where the owner knew your name, could tell you about special offers, direct you to things you might like and even offer you credit. Technology is going to bring all that back to the everyday experience, and at PayPal we believe we are leading the way. The technology available today can easily and cost-effectively transform a legacy cash register into an interactive point of sale solution that makes it easier to operate a business and adds to a truly enjoyable consumer experience rather than a mundane transaction.
PayPal pioneered online shopping nearly 15 years ago when we created the easiest and safest way for small businesses to start selling online. To help support the entrepreneurial spirit and navigate through this "technology crossroads," PayPal has launched a new program to help small companies create better and unique experiences with their customers, enabling these businesses to take currency in multiple electronic forms and simply give them another way to grow their business. Through this program we've dubbed "Cash for Registers," PayPal will be offering free payment processing to small business owners if they adopt new technology and update their register, whether it's through a solution like PayPal Here, through our point of sale partners Vend and ShopKeep or eventually, through our acquiring partners. We couldn't be more excited to join the SBA in supporting this country's small business owners with their hard work and endless drive for innovation and success.
For me, this commitment is also very personal. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to where I came from and to leverage the scale of a "big" company. I know I could have never made it to where I am today without the help of partners and customers from fellow businesses, large and small, who believed in what I was trying to achieve. As the head of PayPal, I'm excited to be in a position to return the favor through programs like Cash for Registers that support and honor the work of the millions of entrepreneurs in this country who put everything on the line to pursue their dreams.