You’ve probably seen the amazing footage on TV and YouTube of people jumping off bridges, skydiving, surfing, cars and motorbikes hurtling round the track and all from the person’s viewpoint or from the end of a ski, surfboard or somewhere on the car etc.
If you have then chances are it was shot using a GoPro camera, a small wearable video camera which has taken the world of extreme sports and outside activities by storm over the last few years. They were even used by Felix Baumgartner to record his recent supersonic record-breaking 39 km high skydive.
Nick Woodman is the founder and CEO of Woodman labs, the company that makes the GoPro range of cameras.
Now Foxconn, the huge Taiwanese electronics manufacturer that makes products like the Sony PlayStation and the Apple iPhone has bought an 8.88% share of Woodman Labs. Foxconn paid $200 million for the share, which values the whole company at $2.25 billion and makes Nick Woodman who owns at least 51% of the company worth approximately $1.2 billion.
GoPro HD cameras have been worldwide hit and now have 32% of the pocket camcorder market. They sell for $300 – $400 each with a whole range of add-ons that allow the user to capture amazing moments like never before. Over 2.7 million of these types of camcorders were sold in 2011 and this is expected to grow by 67% to 4.5 million in 2012.
But like most stories Nick Woodman didn’t start off looking to become rich, he just wanted something to hold a camera to his arm so he could film himself surfing.
The GoPro creator first had the idea of a wearable camera in the late 1990s. However it wasn’t until he was on a surfing trip to Australia and Indonesia with friends in 2002 that he actually took the idea seriously. He said that the trip was fantastic and had lots of memorable moments but it was impossible to take quality pictures of what they were doing.
They could get pictures taken from the beach but they were too far away to show the detail and they could not show what it looked like from the surfer’s point of view. In those days only professional surfers could get decent action shots because they would take a professional photographer along with them while surfing.
There were disposable waterproof cameras available but they gave poor results. They had to be strapped to your arm with elastic bands which were both uncomfortable and not easy to wear and would often come off. It was then that he decided to try and make a wearable camera that actually worked.
Nick Woodman initially only wanted to create a strong, adjustable strap that would hold a camera on the person’s body as they were taking part in an activity. It was only later that he started to make the complete camera and wearable mount system.
However he needed the money to invest in his new idea. Whilst they were on their surfing trip in Bali, Nick and his now wife found belts made from seashells for sale in the local Bali market for $1.90 each. Realising he could sell them for much more in America they bought 600 belts before returning to the USA. They then sold the belts along the California coast for up to $60 each.
With the money they had raised from selling the belts and a $35,000 loan from his mother, Nick Woodman created his first GoPro camera strap. He worked on the design for two years to perfect the product and Jill; Woodman’s wife became the company’s sales person. Things took off for GoPro, when in 2004, a Japanese company ordered 100 straps at an action sports trade show they were attending.
Nick soon realised that instead of just been using a stills camera, if he could make a small video camera fit the strap it could take some amazing videos. And that’s exactly what he did and now GoPro is a miniature wearable HD video and stills camera system.
Nick had the idea of calling the company “GoPro” because most amateur surfers would love to “go professional” just so they could record their experiences. This also could make the wearer feel like a hero and thus the camera’s name of the “GoPro Hero” was created.
Woodman labs now employ 150 people and Nick Woodman is one of the world’s newest billionaires.