The Meteoric Rise of GoPro: Key Stats and Milestones

As a business consultant who has helped dozens of startups launch and grow, GoPro‘s journey from garage-based camera upstart to globally recognized brand fascinates me.

GoPro’s accessible action cameras were once only popular with extreme sports enthusiasts. But smart branding, social media marketing and constant hardware innovations opened them up to a mass consumer market.

So how big is GoPro today?

Here are some key GoPro business statistics:

  • Over 30 million GoPros sold as of 2018 – This shows the brand appeal goes far beyond the original niche user base
  • $1.185 billion revenue in 2018 – This was down from a 2016 peak of $1.618 billion due to restructuring efforts and exit from the drone market
  • 1.16 million GoPro Plus subscribers – This high-margin subscription service provides expanded cloud storage and discounts to create recurring revenue

To better understand GoPro’s impressive growth, let’s look at some major milestones over the past two decades:

2002 – Surfer Nick Woodman Founded GoPro to Capture His Own Action Shots

The founding story behind GoPro exemplifies the solutions-oriented entrepreneurial thinking I encourage with all my clients:

“Basically, I wanted to take better pictures of me and my friends surfing” – Nick Woodman

The first GoPro prototypes simply used 35mm film cameras with wrist straps to click sports action images not possible with ordinary cameras.

2009 – Early GoPro Sales Fueled by Rise of iPhone and Social Media

While the early GoPro models gained traction around some action sports circles through the 2000s, the launch of the iPhone 3GS in 2009 proved pivotal.

Suddenly mainstream consumers could easily shoot, edit and share video socially via smartphones. GoPro tapped into this trend with its first HD camera models.

2014 – GoPro Goes Public and Hits Billion Dollar Valuation

After 12 years of private company growth into an action camera leader, GoPro held a hugely successful $427 million IPO in June 2014. This cemented the brand as a public icon and Eddie Cue of Apple joined GoPro‘s board of directors.

2016 – GoPro Launches Karma Drone and Splice Video Editor Acquisition

I view the Karma drone launch in 2016 as an ambitious but flawed reach into a market adjacency that went against GoPro’s core consumer strengths. Software acquisitions like Splice proved smarter plays to their base.

2018 – New Cameras, Subscription Service to Bolster Revenues

After falling short of sales targets and exiting the drone category in 2018, GoPro bounced back to profitability with renewed focus on its core action camera products and more value added software capabilities via acquisitions.

1.16 million paying subscribers to their Plus service signals the subscription revenue model I advocate to entrepreneurs for predictable recurring revenues.

As Nick Woodman said in a recent interview when asked about lessons learnt:

“Focus is critical. We’ve learned that lesson over the past couple of years.”

This year GoPro is expected to grow revenues double digits again after a successful new camera launch.

Having studied and worked with many startups over the past decade in various advisory roles, I believe GoPro offers 3 key entrepreneurial lessons:

  1. Solve a real frustration – Build for a customer rather than a market
  2. Stick to your core competency – Don‘t lose sight of what made you successful
  3. Leverage ecosystems – Use platforms like mobile and social to scale

I hope by sharing GoPro‘s journey that other entrepreneurs reading this can appreciate how a simple idea in 2002 has snowballed into an inspirational half a billion dollar public company today.

While GoPro focuses on the hardware innovation and brand marketing that made them market leaders, they must continue finding value added solutions via software, subscriptions and strategic partnerships to defend against mainstream consumer electronics players.