To us, the GoPro is the ultimate American product, born of R&D in a guy’s garage, not in a multi-national’s lab. Started with only 10,000 dollars in bootstrapped cash. Started by a man, named Nick Woodman, who sold bead and shell belts out of his VW van in order to raise the cash to sell the product. Perhaps most importantly, the GoPro was created to solve a problem- that of capturing Action Sports like surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding, up close.
The problem, and the solution
Nick Woodman first identified the problem while on a surf trip to Australia in 2002. How was surfing usually filmed? From afar, meaning from the shore. Or, from a jetski. You can see the problem- barrels look a little different from 100 feet away then they do when you are in the middle of one. High quality film equipment was quite expensive, out of the reach of the everyday consumer.
From Boostraps to VCs
It was while selling bead and shell belts out of his van that Nick Woodman developed the idea of a better film strap for cameras, as the common film straps on the market weren’t particularly durable and broke easily. Flexibility was needed. After all, the aim was to capture some of the world’s most reckless activities- skydiving, base jumping, white water rafting- as close as possible. Your average film strap simply wasn’t going to cut it. From the simple idea of improving the way action sports were captured, a beloved product, and a billionaire, were born. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves- the billionaire isn’t here just yet.
Nick Woodman with his creation, a Hero Three. Photo courtesy of Forbes.
From one Failure to the Next
Nick might have been your typical all-American jock, straight out of Menlo Park, California, except he was more interested in pursuing a passion than he was a pre-defined career path. Ever-entrepreneurial, Nick built, and destroyed, two companies before coming onto the idea of the GoPro. The first failed company to his name was a website called EmpowerAll.com which attempted to sell electronics products for a mere 2 markup. It tanked, and fast. During his second startup, Mr. Woodman managed to raise 3.9 million in funding for Funbug, “a gaming and marketing platform that gave users the chance to win cash prizes.” Yes, we are having trouble envisioning it too. Like so many tech startups of the early 2000s, Funbug failed to gain traction and was soon belly up/face down in the mud/completely dead like pets.com.
Woodman had failed for a second time, and he says that it is this fear of failure that drove him to eventually succeed with his third project, the GoPro. Moving back in with his parents at 26, and working Elon Musk like hours to develop his product- 18, 20 hours a day, doing everything from email to driving a truck to designing his product by hand because he didn’t have enough CAD (Computer automated Design) experience to do so by hand. Woodman had given himself 4 years to develop a product that worked.
While Nick Woodman is not typically considered to be the ‘product guru’ that Steve Jobs was, he was heavily involved in all aspects of his product’s design. Rather than race to market, Woodman actually delayed launch on several occasions when his suppliers in China switched to cheaper materials without him knowing. Woodman also wasn’t afraid to hustle himself. Check him in this YouTube video on the home shopping channel for proof:
In 2004, GoPro closed with 150,000 in revenue. The company has been able to double revenue every year since then. In 2005, GoPro made 350,000 in sales, thanks in large part to the classic Home Shopping spot you saw above. Since then, the company has grown to be worth over 2.5 billion dollars, and has successfully transitioned from its early reliance on film to digital recording, which is surely a major factor in its success.
The State of the Action Cam in 2014
Woodman continues to expand his offerings, giving us more products that we all love. He recently released the Hero3, which in addition to its sleek look, has taken the action sports world by storm with its high quality video. The GHero 3 is smaller and, in a textured, soft-touch plastic, is optimized for the bumps and bruises that accompany an extreme lifestyle. You can read more about the GoPro Hero 3 in our article here.
How far can the it go?
We often wonder- just how popular can the GoPro become? How big is the market? After all, isn’t it just limited to the action sports enthusiast market? Not at all! In fact, we think that it has the potential to become one of the biggest players in the video camera space, rivaling players like Sony and Panasonic. The reason is that, as technology improves (which is will) and the size of the camera shrinks, its applications are going to increase tenfold, or even more. Don’t believe it? Well, just think about what you could do with a camera the size of your thumb. Think about its applications. Think about what a dentist or a doctor could do with such a camera. Yeah, we don’t really know either! But they could definitely do something. So as the GoPro continues its assent into the stratosphere, we are going to be watching carefully and rooting for its market share to increase.
For GoPro 3D Hero System Review, click here
For WiFi Remote and LCD BacPac Review, click here
For Cineform Studio Review, click here
For how to get the cheapest GoPros, click here
For GoPro Coupon Codes, click here