GoPro Going Public and How the World’s Hottest Camera Company Will Deal With Smartphones

By: John Willenborg

GoPro’s story is the kind that everyone loves: A young entrepreneur with an idea and the hutzpah to take on the big dogs. The story has a little bit of Steve Jobs, a little bit of Social Network, and a whole lot of adrenaline.

We all love a good tale of old-fashioned American hard work and success, but what does going public (and the future of GoPro) look like? There is no doubt Nick Woodman is a talented CEO, but the one question Wall Street is asking: can GoPro sustain their meteoric rise? And, that led me to some questions of my own:

How Much Can Action Cameras Grow?
GoPro is pushing hard to make their Hero line an everyday product (think more video of kids at the beach and less X Games). GoPro wants to position themselves more as a camera company and less as a pure action sports brand. This mass market positioning sounds great, but there could be an even brighter future if they do what they know best, stay with action cameras.

GoPro and Smartphones?
The landscape is littered with strong companies and industries that were obsoleted by new smartphone technology (Kodak & Flip Cam), the camcorder, the Walkman and point- and-shoot camera segment, represented a billion dollar industry that ceased to exist overnight. As a result, the perceived danger to GoPro going forward is that people’s smartphone cameras are advancing quickly, and are already backed by corporations that spend billions on R&D (Apple, Samsung, Google). Is it feasible that GoPro can continue to sell a $400 camera to someone with a great smartphone? One camera maker, Canon, has data that says emphatically, “Yes.”

Year on year, Canon has seen steady 15% growth in their high-end camera sales. Why are people buying more high-end gear when the smartphone is dominating the camera industry? Quite simply, consumers are taking more pictures with their smartphones, and falling in love with photography. From there they graduate to higher-end gear and so on.

For GoPro, the smartphone can still be that gateway drug to high dollar sales. By simply incorporating the smartphone into the entry-level ecosystem with products like Optrix, GoPro can continue to sell at the high-end insulated from smartphone advancement.

GoPro has already shown some smartphone integration with their iOS and Android apps. If GoPro more deeply integrates smartphones into the GoPro ecosystem it could be very successful. By embracing the casual smartphone user AND building high dollar, high-end action gear, GoPro could gain the mass-market appeal they’re targeting.

In the end, if GoPro is savvy enough to position itself as the premium product – while at the same time embracing the rise of the smartphone and mobile photography, then the changing market landscape will only continue to work to their advantage.



About John Willenborg – John Willenborg attended UC Berkeley and is the founder and CEO of Optrix Inc. John got his start on Donald Trump’s Apprentice in 2004 and has spent years working in the action sports industry with Speed Channel, NASCAR, FOX Sports, and now Optrix. Optrix Inc. is currently the world leader in action sports products for smartphones.