Innovative entrepreneur makes mark in world of social media advertising


By Arthur Lightbourn

Five years ago, over coffee at Starbucks, serial start-up entrepreneur Nichole Goodyear and a long-time business colleague, John Kernan, agreed that it was getting more difficult for advertisers to connect with consumers and that, in their world, spelled OPPORTUNITY.

Goodyear, a savvy mother of two, compares being an entrepreneur to being a storm-chaser.

“And, in this case,” she says, “the disruption was: Advertisers spend billions trying to get consumers to purchase their product. So the traditional ways they spend — advertising on radio, on television with commercials, as well as online banner ads —were all in major disruption and needing a new mechanism.”

At the same time, she said, she and her colleague were seeing the rise of user-generated content in social networks.

“We thought there has to be a new way to advertise using user-generated content,” Goodyear concluded.

The nagging questions were: How to get consumers in front of brands in the online space? And how to charge for these services in a way that made sense to advertisers.

As a result, in 2005, Goodyear and Kernan co-founded a company with the unlikely name of Brickfish®. (Translation: Brick = cool, and fish = to search for.)

Brickfish is a technology platform that powers social media campaigns for Fortune 1000 companies and their advertising, PR and media-buying agencies. It’s based on the idea that online social interaction between people is the most valuable commodity in the information age and a great way to gain name recognition and brand loyalty.

Campaigns often offer rewards for viewer participation including scholarships, cash prizes, and trips to meet various individuals and groups.

Under Goodyear’s direction as CEO, Brickfish, headquartered in Mira Mesa, has grown to 30 employees, with additional sales offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

The company has won several industry awards and, most recently, Goodyear and Brickfish were selected as finalists in three categories of the 7th annual international Stevie Awards for Women in Business (Best Entrepreneur, Most Innovative Company, and Technology Innovator). The award winners will be announced and honored on Nov. 12 in New York City.

Goodyear was born Nichole Mortensen in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She grew up in Othello, Washington. Her mother and father owned and operated beauty salons.

She attended the University of Montana where, in 1988,, she earned a B.B.A. with an emphasis on computer systems and a minor in economics.

Initially, she planned to become a corporate lawyer, but a demonstrable talent for computer science set her on a path of working with computer-related start-up companies.

Brickfish, a venture capital-backed company, is the seventh start-up that Goodyear has worked with during her career.

She and her husband, Todd Goodyear, a software engineer, have been married for 12 years. They live locally with their two children: Alyssa, 9, and Jake, 7.

When not working, (and she works a lot), Goodyear is a soccer mom (her children play competitive soccer with the Del Mar Sharks) and she is a classroom volunteer in math and science programs at her children’s school, Sage Canyon Elementary.

“Everything is about work or kids,” she said.

In constructing Brickfish, she said: “We had to build a platform that could go anywhere. It had to be what we call social media agnostic,” being able to go everywhere and not be restricted to a one or a few social media platforms.

“So our goal was how could we run ‘viral advertising campaigns’ for brands in a way that would get a lot of viewers involved in terms of creation and other viewers involved to share it virally across the social Web,” Goodyear said.

In digital media, she explained, “viral means something that can be started in one place and spread online. A viral video on YouTube would be a video that someone posted on YouTube and all of a sudden people are viewing it all over the world. And, therefore the number of viewers is going up virally.”

Brickfish designed the CPE® (cost per engagement) patent-pending system of measuring and tracking online advertising based on four engagement factors: people creating content, consumers viewing the content actively, consumers writing comments about the content, and if it involves a contest or a promotion, consumers performing a social action like voting for the content or commenting.

“Every time a consumer performs an ‘engagement,’” Goodyear said, “our system of analytics tracks all those engagements, regardless of where they are happening” in the social media world, i.e. on Brickfish, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, etc.”

And, an advertiser is charged accordingly base on the number of engagements created by the promotion. “It’s a performance-based advertising solution,” Goodyear said.

Her management style?

“Developmental and collaborative.”

Developmental in encouraging young talented employees to become “rising stars and help them find their path from a career perspective,” and collaborative, especially as a start-up, in “getting people to work together towards a common goal.”

“Every single employee in the company is a stock-holder,” she said, “and has a vested interest in the success of the company.”

Her motivating motto, ever since she ran track in high school, is: “Run through the finish line.” Never relax your efforts until you have actually run through and crossed the finish line.

To date, the five-year-old Brickfish has run 500 programs and has generated more than 300 million engagements.