April 6, 2011 – In today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Nick Wingfield, features GoPro in his story on the company’s rise and adoption by the professional production market. The featured photo in the article is that of Dom Moore, a GoPro customer and previous “Photo of the Day” winner!

Camcorder Popular With Surfers Looks to Ride Professional Market

April 6, 2011


Even as cellphones put video cameras into pockets everywhere, one company is seeing brisk sales of a rugged video camera that turns ordinary people into the stars of their own self-shot action movies.

GoPro’s trick: a collection of mounts that allow its inexpensive cameras to be attached to everything from the tips of surfboards to ski helmets. The cameras have also started winning converts among professional cameramen, who have used the gadgets to burrow into cobra dens and shoot the insides of shark’s mouths for television nature shows.

Now GoPro’s closely held parent company, Woodman Labs Inc., is receiving its first round of funding from outside investors, including Steamboat Ventures, a venture capital fund backed by Walt Disney Co. GoPro declined to disclose the size of the investment.

GoPro is part of a category of products known as pocket camcorders that is thriving despite the prevalence of video cameras inside devices like Apple Inc.’s iPhone. The simple-to-operate cameras are more portable than traditional camcorders but lack many of their bells-and-whistles, like powerful zoom lenses.

In 2009, sales of all pocket camcorders were just over $2 billion world-wide, growing 21% in unit sales to 13.6 million in 2010 from the prior year, according to research firm IDC, which doesn’t have a dollar estimate for 2010.

Pure Digital—the maker of the best-known pocket camcorder, the Flip—was acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. two years ago for $590 million. One of GoPro’s new investors, Steamboat Ventures, was also an investor in Pure Digital.

Beau Laskey, a Steamboat managing director, said his firm plans to help GoPro expand its business in the professional market. “We do believe there’s a big market there,” Mr. Laskey said.

While Flip cameras and mobile phones are used to record children’s birthday parties and other everyday activities, GoPro has won fans among sports enthusiasts with the product’s ability to slosh around in the surfand to withstand other harsh conditions.The six-ounce, fist-sized digital camera comes with a water-tight housing and starts at $260 for a version that shoots the highest quality of high-definition video, called 1080p. In contrast, non-rugged cameras tend to start at cheaper prices, with the Flip starting at about $130.

Nick Woodman, a surfer who is chief executive and founder of GoPro, said a big part of the camera’s appeal is that people can pivot the cameras to be aimed at themselves while they’re surfing or doing some other activity and easily share them on Facebook and YouTube. The name of GoPro’s family of products—Hero Cameras—is a clue to the impulse it’s seeking to appeal to.

“This is a huge enabler for that type of ego satisfaction,” he said.

Mr. Woodman declined to give sales figures, but said the Half Moon Bay, Calif., company has been profitable since he started it in 2002. The company’s cameras, which first got exposure in surf shops, motorcycle stores and sporting goods retailers, will soon be on sale in Best Buy stores.

GoPro’s most unexpected success has been among television cameramen. GoPro said its cameras have been used on more than 60 television shows, ranging from “Mythbusters” to “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Andy B. Casagrande IV, a freelance videographer for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, said the rugged design and low cost of GoPro cameras have enabled him to get shots that were never practical before.

“We’ve had a few cameras eaten for sure,” Mr. Casagrande said, adding that the sharks eventually spit the devices up without being harmed.

Ernie Montagna, equipment manager for Original Productions, the production company behind “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers,” has used the GoPro devices to get a shot that had long eluded him: crabs entering a crab pot on the bottom of the sea.

Last year, Mr. Montagna estimated he bought 200 GoPros for all of his company’s shows, while this year he has already purchased 75.