Payment-processing giant PayPal wants more small businesses to use its services, especially as new-generation players like Square grow larger.
Today PayPal announced a major hire to focus on those small businesses. Rakesh “Rocky” Agrawal, a veteran of Aol and Microsoft, will become the company’s director of strategy.
“I’m going to be responsible for working with entrepreneurs and small business and helping them understand this big changing global landscape,” Agrawal said in an interview with VentureBeat.
People just getting started in businesses have things to think about other than technology, and services like PayPal can help them spend time on more important things, he said.
Disclosure: Agrawal has contributed guest posts to VentureBeat on a regular basis for more than two years. He’ll continue to write for us, but will no longer write about PayPal or its competitors. Here’s Agrawal’s post on why he joined PayPal.
Agrawal’s move to PayPal follows other recent appointments, including Stan Chudnovsky, the new vice president of growth and strategy; and Hill Ferguson, the new chief product officer.
Agrawal has been a program director at Aol, where he launched a revamped version of local search, and he later worked on product management at Microsoft, where he helped incorporate speech recognition in cars in order to direct people to businesses.
Most recently he has been a consultant and a blogger, specializing in issues facing small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In his new role, he said, he wants to get people thinking about PayPal as more than just a company that can handle financial transactions, even though he does believe it did make life easier when it emerged in the late 1990s. While on a recent consulting assignment in Australia, he recalled ordering food from a restaurant through his PayPal mobile app, and then passing people waiting in line when he went to pick up food. “That probably saved me 10 minutes,” he said. “When you have a ‘wow’ experience like that, it helps to redefine the brand in people’s minds.”
Now the challenge will be to get many more businesses taking advantage of such services — even as some PayPal employees have shown hesitation to use the PayPal app.
“Some of the things I’m looking at implementing are seminars for small business to learn about e-commerce and the future of retail and just really working with them to help them understand. Because a lot of these folks don’t have time to go out and research and read tech blogs and so forth.”
PayPal doesn’t expect to have email threads going back and forth with every small-business founder in the world. It’s working with partners that focus on specific small-business categories, like restaurants, bars, salons, and spas, Agrawal said.
A friend recently told him to “expect that you’re going to get 10 percent of what you want to get done done,” he said. He thinks that’s about right.
“You want to do so much,” he said. “Just set your expectations and focus.”