GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman Discusses Inspiration | Disrupt SF 2013 | Summary and Q&A

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September 11, 2013
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GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman Discusses Inspiration | Disrupt SF 2013

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Summary

In this video, Nick Woodman, the founder of GoPro, discusses various aspects of the company and its success. He talks about some of the coolest GoPro videos, the impact of GoPro in TV and movies, his proudest moment, the origins of GoPro, the capital used to start the company, the choice between Kickstarter and venture money, the barriers to having a high tech industry in the United States, the partnership with Foxconn, and the potential competition between GoPro and Google Glass.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the coolest GoPro video you've seen?

One of the coolest GoPro videos that comes to mind is the dolphin video. A fisherman had a GoPro attached to his boat while he was fishing, and on the way back to port, he realized that a pod of dolphins had been following him. The footage showed the dolphins swimming and playing around the boat, and it looked like CGI. This video captured a perspective that very few people had ever seen before.

Q: How are GoPro videos used in TV and movies?

GoPro videos are often used in TV and movies to capture thrilling and immersive perspectives. One notable example is the broadcast of Felix Baumgartner's jump from near space. Multiple GoPros were attached to Baumgartner, capturing his jump and descent back to Earth. This footage was emotionally moving and had a profound impact on viewers.

Q: How old were you when you founded GoPro?

I was 26 years old when I founded GoPro. At that age, I had set a goal for myself to become an entrepreneur by the age of 30. I didn't have a clear idea of what being an entrepreneur entailed, but I approached it as an inventor and someone who wanted to create something new.

Q: Why did you start GoPro?

After failing at my first business, I didn't have any inspiration for what to do next. So, I decided to go surfing, as that was my passion. During a five-month trip around Australia and Indonesia, I came up with the idea for a wrist camera that I could use to document my surfing trip. This trip became an R&D journey for GoPro, and I was excited to start the company upon returning home.

Q: How much capital did you use to start GoPro?

When I launched GoPro in 2004, I had a total of $65,000 in capital. I saved up $30,000 from my first business, borrowed $35,000 from my mom, and used a sewing machine to hand sew the straps for the first GoPro prototypes. Over the next couple of years, I borrowed additional funds from my dad to build inventory and scale the business.

Q: What has changed for entrepreneurs in the last 10 years?

One significant change for entrepreneurs in the last 10 years is the increased access to resources, information, and services that can help bring ideas to fruition. Entrepreneurs now have more support and tools to turn their visions into reality. Platforms like Kickstarter, which I didn't have when starting GoPro, have allowed entrepreneurs to raise significant funds and build a community around their ideas.

Q: Why did you choose to bootstrap GoPro instead of taking venture money?

Bootstrapping GoPro allowed me to fully focus on my vision without the pressures and expectations of investors. While it may have been slower than taking venture money, it gave me the freedom to establish the brand and grow the business organically. Having complete control over the direction of the company allowed us to make pivotal decisions, such as entering the motorsports market, that ultimately led to GoPro's success.

Q: What is the benefit of GoPro's international business strategy?

One benefit of GoPro's international business strategy was the ability to generate revenue upfront. By focusing on international distributors who would pay upfront when we shipped from Hong Kong, we were able to build capital and use it to expand our domestic business. This strategy allowed us to establish a strong presence globally and grow our brand quickly.

Q: What are the barriers in place to prevent the United States from having a high tech industry like Foxconn?

One barrier to the United States having a high tech industry like Foxconn is the need to relearn how to manufacture products domestically. While overseas manufacturers excel at turning ideas into physical products, they may struggle to understand Western consumer needs and use cases. This difference in understanding creates opportunities for collaboration between the West and the East, as each brings different strengths to the table. Additionally, access to resources and information has leveled the playing field, making it possible for American entrepreneurs to compete globally.

Q: What led to the partnership between GoPro and Foxconn?

The partnership between GoPro and Foxconn was driven by the desire to build a relationship with the world's leading electronics manufacturer. For an entrepreneur like myself, it was a dream to collaborate with a company that has expertise in manufacturing. The partnership with Foxconn not only provides financial support but also opens new opportunities and strengthens GoPro's position in the market.

Q: When will we see a GoPro Google Glass?

While devices like Google Glass capture the first-person perspective, GoPro's strength lies in its versatility. GoPro cameras can be mounted in various ways, allowing for different perspectives and use cases. While Glass-like products may offer a hands-free remote-controlled experience, they may not lend themselves well to the versatility and durability of GoPro. The two products can potentially work together to enhance user experiences in different ways.

Takeaways

In summary, Nick Woodman shares insights into the success of GoPro and some of the challenges and decisions made along the way. GoPro's international business strategy, passion for capturing unique perspectives, and focus on versatility have been key factors in its growth. Bootstrapping the company allowed for greater control and organically building a strong brand. The partnership with Foxconn represents an exciting opportunity for further collaboration and expansion. Despite the success, the fear of failure continues to drive the team to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

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