Nichole Goodyear on entrepreneurism, education today and the American Dream

Nichole Goodyear, CEO of Brickfish

Brickfish is a community of movers and shakers who inspire and change the way we think about social media today. They’ve been there since the beginning–Nichole, being a serial entrepreneur with seven successful startups under her belt, knew how big Myspace and Facebook were going to be. Co-founding Brickfish, she essentially built a new online advertising model in social media before most people even realized the marketplace existed.

Nichole took a few minutes to share her keys to success, why her last name sounds so familiar, and what the American Dream means today.

Alister & Paine: How was Brickfish conceived?

Nichole Goodyear: It started with the idea that online advertising was going to change in a drastic way online. No one was paying attention to banner ads anymore.We knew we were creating something to connect brands with consumers in a social space in a way that tapped into user generated content.It used to be about customer service. You could call and get a warm body on the phone and ask a question about a product. That human element went away, and it’s the same in websites.

Now with social media we’re going back old school. Now it’s listen to your customers, talk to them. When they say something online respond to them. It’s this paradigm shift that’s going back in a very different way with the same fundamentals of what used to exist.

Alister & Paine: How did you raise capital?

Nichole Goodyear: This is my seventh start up. All of the companies have been venture backed. We certainly had investment from my co-founder as well as other angel investors along the way. Our strategy was to get the product built and proof of concept before we took a Series A of funding. By the time we closed our first round of funding we used angel seed money and had launched 35 campaigns back in 2006.

Alister & Paine: Have you found a lot of gender barriers along the way?

Nichole Goodyear: It’s not easy to be a female in technology. There aren’t very many and there are barriers that you have to overcome. It’s still not as easy as it should be. But it’s okay—it makes me fight harder. I have children, and a lot of investors don’t want to invest in a businesswoman who has children.

Alister & Paine: What are the best characteristics of an entrepreneur?

Nichole Goodyear: Be tenacious, have vision and passion, and a small dose of insanity. It’s not the easy path but it’s exciting when you have the ability to create something and look forward and see what the marketplace will need.

Alister & Paine: Tell me about your last name, Goodyear—coincidence?

Nichole Goodyear: My husband’s cousin, Charles Goodyear, invented the way you vulcanize rubber.He was this crazy entrepreneur who’d be cooking formulas on his Kitchen stove saying ‘I’ve almost got it! I’m gonna make it!’, and his family didn’t have any food or shoes. At the end of the road he finally created the formula and found a company to sell it to and give him a job. They named the company after him…but he didn’t get any of the money.

I think it’s a travesty that we don’t have more opportunity for small businesses and for people that have great ideas to be able to come and create and innovate and invent.

Alister & Paine: Marketing strategy for Brickfish?

Nichole Goodyear: It’s been a lot of evangelism on the street. The big marketing push is coming now. A year and a half ago people weren’t talking about social media like they are today.

It really shifted after the Obama campaign. People really seemed to get what he did with his brand. Obviously, it was to win the election but he was able to move his brand forward by using social media as an effective channel. And that was the huge catalyst for change in the industry in general.

Alister & Paine: Speaking of Obama….How do you feel about his administration?

Nichole Goodyear: He’s been able to try new things and he’s been able to think outside the box different things related to his party and his cross party. Certainly we’ve made progress and certainly there’s frustration of areas where we haven’t…

Alister & Paine: What’s your biggest frustration?

Nichole Goodyear: Watching what’s happening in the school system, the little amount of money we’re putting into our math and sciences programs…we’re headed in a bad place. Everything’s about creating new things—it always has been. As a country we have to invest in our youth, and it concerns me that we don’t.

Alister & Paine: Do you think people still want the American Dream?

Nichole Goodyear: Absolutely. At the end of the day people want to feel proud of what they’ve accomplished. From my kid’s soccer teams to the Fortune 500 companies I work with, everyone wants to feel that they can make a difference and create change. Our whole country and our whole American spirit is about the American Dream and the ability that you don’t need to be born into money to start a business.

America will never be a place of complacency. It’s not in our make-up or our blood. The American Dream is defined by the service and human connection we’re returning to now. That’s the American Dream.