Nick Woodman was a surfer in high school and college. And in college he made certain that he was always within a short walk to the beach – morning surf, classes, and afternoon surf. He also sold T-shirts. He might have become a professional surfer, but the entrepreneurial spirit was deep within.
Once he graduated, in 1997, with a degree in visual arts, Woodman raised almost $4 million for a game company startup, called “Funbug.” The company failed quite quickly, and Woodman was broke. He did what any broke guy with a wife would do – they decided to travel the world and surf for a year so that he could find inspiration. And, indeed he found it!
Irritation Becomes Inspiration
While surfing all over the world, the one thing that irritated Woodman more than anything was that he could not film himself engaged in the sport his loved. He began to realize that many sportsman, such as skydivers, could not either. To do the best he could, he strapped a small camera to his wrist with rubber bands, but realized he had to find a better way.
Returning home, Woodman was determined to develop a camera and a strap that could be used by extreme sports enthusiasts. He and his wife sold necklaces that they had purchased in Bali out of their 1971 Volkswagen van, and he borrowed $236,000 from his parents. It all came together.
The Camera and the Strap
Woodman developed his GoPro camera and a strap (a belt really) that would hold the camera to the body, thus allowing the surfer, skydiver, or any other sportsman to film his events close up and hands-free. The equipment was primarily sold in surf shops and at trade shows, but it began to turn a tidy profit. Four years later, revenues reached $350,000 a year.
With several additional camera and strap models, the business continued to grow.
The Trade Show That Changed Everything
In 2009, Woodman and his 8 employees attended a trade show. They had developed a new camera, called the Hero HD, and a better belt. They sold out. So popular were this camera and strap that within a year, annual revenue jumped to $64 million. (http://www.businessinsider.cm/the-life-and-awesomeness-of-a-GoPro-founder-nick-woodman)
The Company Today
Not much has changed about Woodman’s company. Production has increased exponentially, of course; new camera models continue to be developed; Woodman’s VW was stolen; but the original mission has never changed – develop the very best sports camera and strap to be found.
Without seeking any venture capital, Woodman has built an empire within the span of 10 short years. Today, at 39 years of age, he is worth $2.3 billion.
GoPro today has 30% of the market share of “action cameras,” the favorite device of surfers, bicyclists, skaters, race car drivers, climbers, skiers, etc. There are now attachments for helmets, wrists and arms, cars, skateboards and bikes. The cameras sell within a price range of $199 – $399, a bit pricier than the competition, but people prefer the quality that GoPro provides. The company recently went public, and Woodman is now talking expansion, perhaps into drone tehnology.