Innovation Case Study – Go Pro

Length: 1919 words

Nick Woodman, a Californian native and keen surfer, invented the GoPro after a surf trip to Australia in 2002. It is small and non-descript looking, deceptive really, however is a wearable camera and camcorder. Its size means it can be mounted almost anywhere with ease, whilst also having the capacity to shoot videos and stills in full HD. The GoPro was the first camera of its kind; small and virtually indestructible, and able to be mounted practically anywhere due to its size, portability and versatile mounts, such as the ability to be fixed to helmets, the body, various pieces of equipment or a specially designed hand-held pole. “Go pro makes it possible for people to have professional quality footage of their life, during their lifes most meaningful moments.” (Nick Woodman, GoPro Founder and CEO, 2012)

The GoPro first took off in the world of extreme sports; appealing to action and adventure lovers around the world, and has prospered due the dawn of YouTube and social media. Deep sea dives, daring ski jumps, or jumping out of planes are some of the many scenarios the GoPro’s devoted fan base have filmed and posted on YouTube, “capturing some of the most jaw dropping action shots ever recorded” (ABC), with its consumers commonly being known as an army of “bruised and uncaged stuntmen… trying to live up to the products name: Hero.” (ABC)

Design and Technological Activity/ Entrepreneurial Activity/ Intellectual Property

“The original goal for GoPro was to produce a camera that the average surfer could use to capture themselves and their friends while they’re surfing” (Nick Woodman – GoPro Founder and CEO, 2012). Woodman believed that an entrepreneur was more likely to succeed if they followed their passions when starting their own company. Through taking his own advice, Woodman ended up founding the company GoPro, and developing the GoPro Hero camera systems.

During a 5-month surfing trip through Australia and Indonesia in 2002, Woodman came up with the idea of creating a wearable wrist strap system that could secure a camera to a surfer’s body. All the available straps at the time were made from rubber, and were generally uncomfortable and awkward to wear, and most were easily broken too. Whilst in Indonesia, Woodman met Brad Schmidt, who is now the Creative Director of Media and Production at GoPro, and upon their return to America they spent the following two years creating, developing, and testing prototypes, until the first GoPro camera was released in 2004.

In the initial days of GoPro, Woodman would only hire people he was in college with, went to high school with, or was related to; he surrounded himself with people he loved, and people he knew he could trust. The company has now grown from the initial 7 people to 300 employees, however he has always said that those first 7 people were as productive as 40, and that because they always had so much fun “that it built a halo around the brand GoPro, where we are now a really fun, all-inviting, loving brand.” (Nick Woodman – GoPro Founder and CEO, 2012)

The growth of the company has almost fully been attributed to the dawn of YouTube and social media, as so many enthusiasts upload and tag their GoPro experiences on YouTube, as well as Facebook, with a video being posted every two and a half minutes – Woodman recently referring to GoPro as a ‘virally grown brand’.

Even though the GoPro started a technological revolution in the area of wearable cameras/camcorders and impossible angles, in the beginning Woodman wasn’t too concerned with the concept of intellectual property; most of the big companies had no idea it was even in development. In recent times however, none of the GoPro’s prototype testing is done in the US, for fears that prototypes will be stolen, so for the GoPro HD Hero 3, a research and development trip was taken to the coast of Nicaragua, where Woodman, Schmidt, and the other executives tested the cameras, by mounting them to their surfboards and catching some waves.

Development/ Timing/ Marketing/ Future Projections

In 2002, after a failed business venture, GoPro’s Founder and CEO Nick Woodman embarked on a 5-month surfing tour of Australia and Indonesia, deciding to seek inspiration for a new company by spending time on his favourite hobby, surfing. He took a 35mm camera on tour with him, to strap to his wrist, with the intent of capturing quality actions shots of himself and his friends surfing. The camera he had was awkward to work with, and would either hit him in the face, or fall off during the middle of a wave. This proved to be a challenge, and he wanted to be both the camera man and the surfer; he desperately wanted a solution so that he and his friends could capture all the action without having to take turns at being the camera man on shore, and with amateur photographers having no way of getting close enough to get good quality shots in the water.

The name GoPro stemmed out of this desire for a camera/camera system that allowed anyone to capture professional angles and good quality shots easily. He envisioned a 35mm camera that could be strapped to a person’s wrist whilst surfing, as well as thinking about the possibility of an elastic-type band that was both strong and adjustable, and could secure a camera to a surfer’s body. At the time, most wrist straps were far from fashionable; they were generally rubber, and were normally awkward, painful and easily broken.

Whilst still in Indonesia, Woodman and his wife ended up buying around 600 bead and shell belts for approximately $2 each from a market in Bali, to come up with the funds for the project. When he and his girlfriend Jill returned to America, they drove along California’s coast in Woodman’s, selling these belts out the back of his ’74 VW Van for $60 each. He also began testing some prototypes he had designed of a wrist-mounted camera, and after 2 years, when he finally felt he had the design right, he borrowed $35,000 from his mother and started the company GoPro. The first GoPro camera system was sold in 2004; it was a 35mm film version. Samsung, amongst other corporate giants, have been working on and developing camcorders for years, however the GoPro cameras stand out specifically for their ruggedness, as well as being easy to use, and having better image and sound qualities.

When asked about the GoPro’s growth, in an interview in June 2012, Woodman said “Our customers going out and capturing interesting footage with it and sharing it online is really what is driving GoPro’s growth; it is a virally grown brand in the hands of our customers. YouTube and Facebook have helped make the go pro what it is today.” The vast majority of GoPro videos are user generated, with a new GoPro tagged video being posted to YouTube every two and a half minutes.

In 2012, GoPro released a Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote Combo Kit, which means multiple cameras can be controlled at once, as well as being able to stream directly to smartphones, tablets and the Internet. In the future, GoPro are also looking at expanding beyond hardware and into media, and developing their own television show, featuring mostly extreme sports videos shot by GoPro users. GoPro as a company sold more than 800,000 cameras last year, as well as growing by around 300%, and so with its loyal fan base and the recent release of its GoPro HD Hero 3, the cameras seem to just be growing in popularity, as well as continuously technologically advancing.

Product Development/ Technological Aspects/ How It Works

The first GoPro camera system was sold in 2004; however the ‘GoPro HERO 35mm’ was made available for sale on April 13, 2005. The 35mm film version (model #001) weighed around 0.45 pounds, and came as a package that included the camera, a clear case with quick release, a camera strap and a ski glove adapter lash. It was fully functional (with the case on) to 15 feet of water, included a roll of film, and was marketed as a ‘reusable wrist camera’.

In 2008, the ‘Digital HERO 5’ was released, and was the first of the GoPro cameras to use a 170° ultra-wide lens, as well as having the capacity to take 5 megapixel still photos, and capture standard definition videos. It was also the first of the GoPro cameras to take a memory card; functioning with a 2GB SD card, as well as having 16MB of internal memory. It ran on batteries, and it was now perfectly functional up to 100 feet of water.

Since the first digital GoPro camera, there have been another 4 released, including the newest GoPro HD cameras to come on the market; the ‘GoPro HD Hero 3’, which come in three different editions, with the company describing the separate editions as being; consumer level (Hero 3 White), prosumer level (Hero 3 Silver), and then professional level (Hero 3 Black). All of the GoPro HD Hero cameras have no viewfinders, or zoom lenses, and with the only menu being a small 2-bit black and white LCD screen on the front of the camera.

The GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition is the newest, and best quality GoPro on the market today, with many retailers and reviewers calling it “the best action camera we have ever used; the footage it takes is simply unparalleled” (Gizmodo). The GoPro Hero 3 is 25% lighter than the previous model (Hero 2), as well as being 30% smaller. On the front there is a six-element aspherical lens, that provides a 170° field of view like the previous GoPro camera’s, however with twice the image sharpness and a reduced amount of barrel distortion. It also has 3 buttons, instead of the usual two; one being the mode/power button, one being start/stop/record, and one to turn Wi-Fi on and off.

There are two lights on the front as well; when recording one blinks red, and when the Wi-Fi is on the other blinks blue. There are also smaller red flashing lights on the top, bottom and back that can be seen from practically any angle too, so that it is very clear when it is recording. When the Wi-Fi is enabled, it activates a wireless connection with the GoPro smartphone app, or the wireless remote, meaning you can control your GoPro from your phone, or by using the wireless remote, more than one GoPro can be controlled at the same time.

Alongside the actual camera itself, stand the near-indestructible case and versatile selection of mounts. Being waterproof to a depth of about 60m/ 180 feet, the polycarbonate casing allows the GoPro to accompany users on a variety of ocean adventures, such as surfing, snorkeling, and skin diving. It features a two-stage lock, upgraded from the original single-stage lock, to provide extra security, and is known to be drop-proof from around 3,000 feet (one was dropped from that height by a skydiver, and it still works perfectly).

One of the most appreciated things about the GoPro casing is that is it fully user-serviceable, meaning any of the components can be ordered independently if a replacement is needed. GoPro also make a variety of mounts, including helmet, wrist, and chest mounts, handlebar and surfboard mounts, as well as various other adhesive mounts, or the option of a hand-held pole. This has allowed for the camera to go everywhere people can go, as well as the many places they can’t, have been used in some cases to film the inside of the mouths of alligators, sharks and polar bears.

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