Business Unusual

How camera maker GoPro became a hero

The story of camera maker GoPro is a classic of what can be achieved when companies make products for consumers instead of simply trying to sell the products they make.

When surfer Nick Woodman was taking a 5-month break after his first company failed badly during the dotcom crash in 2000 he returned to his passion, surfing. He realised that there was no cheap option to take pictures while catching a wave.

Using a surf leash and enclosing a regular camera in waterproof box; the first GoPro used actual 35mm film.

Taking pictures was already a big business and prices for cameras were dropping. When his extreme camera hit the mark he called it "Hero", a good insight into what remains a big motivation for the pictures they capture. Heroes being immortalised in action...

The supposed second wave came with technology improvements, first in digital cameras then in video capture even though the original only managed 10 second clips at a resolution you would not even watch on a mobile phone.

Fast forward to the latest one and you can shoot in ultra high definition at normal frame rates or at lower resolution at a very high frame rates all controlled from your smartphone on a cube that weighs less than 100g.

You might think that Woodman, now a billionaire of a listed company, is happy with where they are now, but their biggest ambitions appear to still lie ahead, to not just create camera's but the equipment of choice for the ever more heroic film makers.

You are unlikely to see crazy footage these days that was not filmed on a GoPro. Whether that be a space walk on the ISS or a balloon ride to 30km above the earth before falling back and being lost for two years (see above).

The cameras are so robust and relatively cheap that searching for "GoPro dropped" on YouTube will get you more videos than you can watch in the the time the company has existed.

The use on drones has extended our view of the world further and special rigs that combine multiple GoPro cameras is making 360 video of action events possible. Watch the video below in a Chrome Browser on YouTube if you can't rotate the view on the clip below.

This from a company that created its first video camera just nine years ago and is now selling about 1000 camera's an hour. The integration into the Apple Watch will add some more fans, but it does not mean it is safe at the top of the heap. In fact, disruption is coming - The Lily is an automated drone camera that will follow you as you do your extreme sports.

But GoPro's shift from the tech to the art of being a hero is well underway with the move to content. Their YouTube channel has over 3 million subscribers and almost a billion views.

The opportunity for those videos to carry ads or get edited into shows would see creators get recognition and money. By building a media platform with a heavy emphasis on editing and publishing content "on the fly" will see ever more incredible footage from the over 5 million units being sold every year.

Woodman, a surf amateur, has truly gone pro. And if one analysts suggestion plays out the GoPro share price and plans may be so good Apple might simply buy them.


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