Jim McCarthy: Goldstar Interview
Jim McCarthy is the CEO ofGoldstar, but he is also Customer Service Agent Number 1 for the company. Jim has spent the last decade and a half in e-commerce, starting way back at GeoCities before it was bought by Yahoo in 1999. Even before that, he helped to open about 50 Noah’s Bagels locations in California, where he learned about delighting customers, developing employees, and managing high growth. He’s written articles and commentary in Fast Company, Business Insider, and other well-known publications, and has appeared as a speaker at conferences like SXSW, TEDU (part of the main TED conference), INTIX and others. He co-founded TEDxBroadway, which he also hosts and curates. Jim graduated from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA. He also speaks Japanese, writes ghost stories and is a certified lifeguard.
1. You are the CEO and one of the founders of Goldstar (along with Robert Graff and Richard Webster), the world’s largest ticket booth, offering half-price tickets to various theatre, comedy, dance, concerts, sporting events, and other live entertainment outlets. What made you want to start Goldstar together? You know those conversations you have where you say “Someday, we’ll…”? The three of us had been having those conversations about starting a business for a couple years, and ‘someday’ finally came.
Jim McCarthy with co-founders Robert Graff and Richard Webster2. What have you learned from working together? Trust in equal doses with candor. It’s impossible to work with partners if you don’t give them the leeway to run the part of the business they’re responsible for, but at the same time, if you do that without an atmosphere of candor with each other, that doesn’t work either. I imagine putting on those big puffy boxing gloves…I may hit (or get hit) pretty hard, but there’s no intent to hurt. The intent is to be honest and get to the heart of a solution.
3. Why did you want to focus Goldstar on entertainment events rather than another area of interest? It’s a perfect match for what the Internet/web/mobile technologies do well, which is taking a whole complicated mess of different things a person might be interested in and match them to millions of people, quickly and elegantly. Not just that, but there was and still is a basic breakdown in the world of live entertainment: people want to be at these events more and the events would love to have more people there! Our thought from the start was that’s a problem that deserves a solution.
Not only that, but it’s fun. You can make a fortune in cement, but it’s pretty hard to get excited about it. Last week, on consecutive nights, I saw a baseball game, a rock opera, and a Broadway play. I suppose there’s an amount of money I’d take to work in the cement industry instead of this, but it would have to be quite a bit more!
Summer night at the Hollywood Bowl, just one of the many venues Goldstar sells tickets to4. How do you decide which events you are going to sell tickets for? Our goal is to be broad, so we’d like to have a wide range of things in every city that we’re in. We’ve done this for long enough that we can filter for shows and events that are professionally done and are going to be good experiences for our members, though to some degree we do let our members tell us what they think about an event.
In other words, if you’re a pro or a talented amateur running an event, your show should be on Goldstar, so call us!
5. Goldstar is a membership driven service, with nearly 4 million members, many of your members being the average age of 37 years old and female. Did you start out trying to get this demographic or did they find you and now you cater to this age group? We paid attention early on to who was most responsive to what we had to offer and then went deeper into that audience as much as we could. It’s important to say though that although our audience is 2/3rds women, we have a lot of men in the audience, and they’re great members too. Goldstar is for everybody, really, though if you polled 100 women and 100 men, more of the women would respond more quickly.
We also saw that it was really important to many of the venues and shows that we worked with that they reach a different audience from the onesthey are already reaching. That could be age, gender, or ethnicity based, or it could be a whole bunch of other things, but we saw that they didn’t need “help” selling discount tickets to the people they already had a strong connection to. What they needed more than anything was to reach a whole bunch of other people who have every reason to be interested in what they’re selling.
6. How do you feel Goldstar has helped inspire a younger generation to go to live events? We’re about choices, information, and variety. We make going to live entertainment something that’s easier to do, more social, and where you’re better informed. I think there are a lot of unintentional barriers to getting out to live entertainment and arts, and we’re breaking those down in ways that helps everyone get out there. This especially helps younger adults who generally come to this kind of content a bit later in life.
I also think that there’s a strong connection between making live entertainment part of your life and truly exploring your own personal creativity. People are creative in a million little ways in their work and just in their daily lives, but how much of the time is that creativity really activated? I think everyone, but perhaps young people in particular, want creativity of whatever kind to be part of not just what they do, but in fact who they are. I can’t think of an easier or more fun way to stir your own personal creativity than to see it on a stage as a regular habit. When you see a smart performance, you get a little smarter. When you hear someone funny, you get to be a little funnier. When you see an athlete do something amazing, you feel somehow that you too could strive to be more like them. I think we’re on the midst of a personal creativity explosion and going to live events has a big role to play in that.
7. Goldstar has been in business for over 10 years now. Did you imagine Goldstar would be what it is today when you first started out? What has been the best part about this venture so far and what challenges have you faced? Yes, actually! This is a lot like we imagined it, which means we’ve been tremendously fortunate. Being a bootstrapped company, the challenges mostly relate to patience. Many very high-powered fads have come and gone in the time we’ve been in business, and there’s a kind of pressure to jump on board those fads, but if they don’t make sense, you have to resist. That’s tough. The most fun part is seeing the impact of the business on all the people we touch, including Goldstar employees, the venue and show partners whose businesses we help build, and of course, the millions of people we send to all these great nights out. That’s the best thing, really.
8. What do you see for Goldstar’s future? In a few years, most people will think of us as the place they go to find something to do. This is already true for a lot of people, but we’re uniquely positioned to take that to a mass level. We’ll be able to provide people with a good answer to the question of how to figure out what they should do with their free Saturday night.
9. What event don’t you sell tickets for that you would like to? Every event belongs on Goldstar, because we have the largest channel solely dedicated to live entertainment and arts in the country. If you want to reach that audience, you need to be there, so the show that I’d like to see on Goldstar is Call Me Adam, the Musical.
10. In addition to selling tickets, you also provide for those less fortunate through your Thanksgiving Appeal where members can provide a Thanksgiving meal to one of the local food banks in their area. How did you decide to start this program ? What has been the greatest reward knowing you are helping so many people? We started this program the second year we were in business because we realized the year before that the week of Thanksgiving is a pretty tough time to try to sell tickets. We had, really, no money at the time, but what we did have was an audience whose attention we could command for a few minutes with our emails and our website. We thought it would be nice to use that for something, and Goldstar members have always been really responsive to the Thanksgiving Appeal.
It’s all to their credit, really. I’m just happy we can facilitate it, but it’s about the generosity of the Goldstar members, not about Goldstar. I’m always proud but not surprised at what our customers do for the organizations, and it’s one of my favorite things that happens during the year.
@CallMeAdam is StageLight Magazines go to interviewer. For more please visit CallMeAdam.com