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10 Years of GoPro: How the California-Based Business Made It Big

10 years ago, Nick Woodman’s office (and bedroom) was a Volkswagen van. Today, he is the billionaire founder of GoPro, formerly Woodman Enterprises. How does one take the leap from struggling entrepreneur, trying to get an idea formulated and off the ground, to kicking it big time? It’s simple: do what you love, keep at it, and be in the right place at the right time.

Do What You Love

In a 2012 interview with Skiing Business, Woodman nailed it. His passion for making something useful ended up making him a ton of money. Many entrepreneurs begin with a love of money and seek to find a product that will pay off. That may not be the best way to strike it rich:

“I think I got lucky because my idea for GoPro centered around two things I’m passionate about: surfing and photography. And that passion has helped get the company to where it is today. It didn’t start as a way to make money. It started as a way to make something that helps people document adventures. We created it for ourselves knowing others would be interested too.”

Keep At It

Woodman introduced his fist camera in 2004. An early adopter of the idea that cameras should be used for selfies, he began by seeking a way for surfers to photograph themselves riding a wave, then branched into action sports of all kinds. Woodman found that not only surfers, but skiers, mountain bikers, and motorcyclists all loved the capability. Later, he would find that GoPro appeals to the sedentary set as well. Everyone loves to see themselves on camera.

No more waiting for someone else to take a photograph of you in action, Woodman’s camera, The Hero, gave customers the capability to take that shot themselves. The first year brought in $150,000 in sales revenue. Not yet kicking it yet, but a hopeful start.

Hard work and an eye towards the needs of the consumer saw success climb incrementally. By 2005, The Hero had gone digital and boasted video capabilities. Sales that year grew to $850,000. From there, revenue doubled each year, reaching over $500 million in 2012 and almost a billion in 2013.

Woodman has not just “kept at it,” though, he has kept at the same thing. GoPro’s product lineup today is still composed of cameras, like the GoPro Hero3 and the accessories needed to operate them. GoPro enthusiasts say the GoPro is built tough enough to take rough action, small enough to slip easily into a pocket, and versatile enough to be attached to almost anything.

GroPro is now going mainstream, no longer relegated to the point of view of a surfer riding inside the barrel of the wave, or fantastic views of what it might be like if Superman had a GoPro, to less dangerous pursuits like dancing with hula hoops, cooking chili, and tempering chocolate.

Be In the Right Place at the Right Time

Woodman’s passion and persistence put him in a place where success was possible, but the evolution of social media provided fuel for the fire.

Within a year of GoPro’s launch, another household name erupted: YouTube. The wildly popular video channel draws a billion unique users to watch over 6 billion hours of video each month. GoPro’s almost 2.3 million subscribers account for an inordinate amount of that. A film of baseball players training and practicing garnered over 337,000 views in its first five days online. A clip of a fireman rescuing a kitten went up about a year ago. It has now been seen almost 24 million times.

Because the GoPro is essentially a “from my point of view” camera that makes taking unusually-framed videos simple and unique, Woodman’s business was an exact-match product for those wanting to get their videos to go viral online. And the other social media channels were great places to post them.

Do you want to know what it feels like to be a base jumper falling off a cliff, to wrestle with a lion, or to fly like an eagle? There’s a GoPro video for that.