The fastest growing digital imaging company in America, GoPro, Inc., recently announced that it is undergoing the process of planning an initial public offering of stock. The company, which began as an experiment for Founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman, who wanted to capture his surfing adventures and share them with his friends, has quickly developed into a household name in digital media. GoPro’s line of ultradurable, ultraportable video cameras has become wildly popular among skiers, surfers, and other extreme sports athletes for the unique pointofview footage that they are able to capture with the product. In this article I will analyze the financial success of GoPro, as well as explore possibilities for the company to expand its line of products and its brand as a whole. In doing so, I hope to provide insight into the potential for GoPro, Inc. to succeed as a publicly-traded company.
GoPro, Inc. offers a line of small, rugged digital video cameras, specialized mounts, accessories, and a GoPro app and media studio. The most recent product in the line of digital cameras is the “HERO3.” The “HERO3” is offered in three different packages, ranging in price from $199.99 to $399.99. Although GoPro’s product line is small, its cameras are praised for their video quality, durability, and portability. The mounts are durable and ingenious; consumers can find a mount for any hobby, from scuba diving, to cliff jumping, to flying a remote control plane. The accessories, such as expanded battery packs, also take into account the consumers who bring their GoPro cameras along on extended adventures. The app and media studio are offered to owners of GoPro cameras for free. Both allow the consumer to edit their footage and, more importantly, share it on social media channels like YouTube. I will further address the importance of this ability, to share GoPro clips online, later in the article. As a whole, Woodman and the rest of the GoPro team have developed a product line that is adaptable and innovative.
Since its launch in 2002, GoPro has experienced impressive financial growth. Beginning in 2004, when the first GoPro camera system was sold, the company has doubled its revenue every year through 2012 – generating $500 million in that year alone. At the end of 2012, Foxconn (known for its role in manufacturing Apple iPhones and Sony PlayStation consoles) bought a 9% stake in GoPro, Inc., valuing the company at nearly $2.3 billion and making Founder/CEO Nicholas Woodman a billionaire. Woodman maintains a majority ownership of GoPro (at least 51%) and continues to play an active role in the company. The 37yearold surfer from Southern California provides a young and relatable face behind the brand. GoPro cameras are now sold in 50 countries and the brand has established itself as the standard of capturing pointofview video footage.
As a “bigname” IPO, GoPro, Inc. stands out among other recent popular IPOs such as Facebook (FB), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Twitter (TWTR). Rather than having a large, established user base that lacks a primary growth product, GoPro’s helmet cams generate a stable source of revenue, especially with a growing user base.
This expanding user base may very well be key to the future success of the GoPro product line. GoPro is unique because its product development is somewhat reliant on the innovation of its consumers rather than its R&D labs. As GoPro users come up with more ways to use the video camera, the company’s development team can create new products to better suit customer needs. In a sense, GoPro cameras are minimum viable products awaiting feedback from consumers. An example of this development process can be seen in the evolution of the GoPro app, and the Wi-Fi capabilities of the most recent “HERO” camera models. Users of previous “HERO” models found it difficult to start/stop recording while the camera was already mounted atop their helmet or at the end of their surfboard (this became even more problematic when such actors were in motion). Furthermore, there was no way to preview the video after the camera was mounted. Both instances required the user to stop what he was doing, remove the camera from its mount, press start/stop or change the angle of the camera, and then place it back on the mount. The new GoPro app and Wi-Fi capabilities of the new “HERO3” models addressed both of these problems. The app provides full remote control of all camera capabilities and allows users to live preview what the camera will capture. As long as GoPro users continue to voice their opinions, GoPro can continue to create and alter products to better fit the needs of its customers.
Much like the creativity of GoPro’s users expands and improves GoPro’s products, their innovation also grows the entire GoPro brand. GoPro’s YouTube channel has posted nearly 1,700 videos, most of which are submitted to the company by consumers. The GoPro channel also has over 1.8 million subscribers and over 440 million total views. Additionally, GoPro sponsors a number of athletes and events. If you watched the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, you most likely noticed the cameras on the helmets of many participants. Of these GoPro athletes, six of them medaled in their respective events, with four winning gold. GoPro has also been featured in commercials and videos by world champion surfer Kelly Slater, renowned NFL coach and analyst Jon Gruden, and the best snowboarder in the world, Shaun White. GoPro cameras are also used by firefighters and police officers for training, live rescues, and documenting arrests. As a whole, the contributions and innovations of both the everyday GoPro user and famous representatives have turned the GoPro brand into an internationally recognized name in extreme sports, and beyond.
As we look towards the future of GoPro, Inc. as a publically traded company, investors should fully recognize the important role that users of the company’s cameras play in the success of both the GoPro products and brand. So long as their relationship remains mutual, expect nothing but greatness from GoPro.