If you’re familiar with this site, chances are you’re probably familiar with Nick Woodman. Whether you’ve read about him in our list of youngest billionaires or found out just how hard he had to work after hitting rock bottom, by now you might know his story.
Woodman is the 37-year-old founder and CEO of GoPro and, as he states in a feature on his company's YouTube channel, “GoPro’s reason for being is to make it easy for people to capture insane video and photos of their lives' most exciting moments."
His story is interesting enough once you consider that he’d failed with two prior companies dramatically (and damaged his name) before trying his hand at GoPro. It’s even more incredible to consider that Woodman basically had to restart his life, moving in with his parents while working long hours into the night to make up for all the hours he’d lost from his failures.
But the story becomes truly fascinating after hearing him speak candidly, and in detail, about how it actually felt to be going through those times.
“It is true that for the most part GoPro was started out of a 70's Volkswagen Westfalia camper rig,” Woodman says in regards to the place where he stitched together his first prototype and wrote his first patent. “... very humble beginnings for GoPro, but the right kind of beginnings. I think it’s a cool story.”
Woodman may speak with a sense of nostalgia when talking about that van, which was essentially his first office, but he also admits that going through the grind and struggle before his breakthrough was a frightening time.
“As an entrepreneur, it’s this dark forest you’re going through and, you know, there’s scary things in there and you just plow ahead and you come out the other side, and all your friends are there and everybody’s cheering having a great time because you’re achieving your goals. It feels really good.”
Today, Woodman is at the head of a company that has doubled its sales every year since its debut in 2004 and generated over $500 million in revenue last year, all according to Forbes. He may not have been as successful, though, had he not identified a specific inconvenience to attack with his product.
“I realized we needed to make a camera that [allows people to] capture footage of themselves without the help of somebody else. We need to make a camera that you can turn around on yourself… that’s when GoPro really took off because we eliminated the need to have somebody else shooting you to capture photos and video of you.”
It’s this type of testimony that can serve as valuable advice to any young entrepreneur. Woodman already had a cool product when his first models could be attached to users’ wrists, but when he made the cameras Imax-esque and allowed for unique angles to be taken, he had officially masterminded a phenomenon. His transition highlights the importance of reworking an already good idea to take it to its full potential.
Perhaps the greatest lesson to be taken from Woodman’s story is that coming up with a good product to sell may be tough (perhaps even failing-with-two-companies-before-succeeding tough), but once you’ve found one, if it totally eliminates a need, you may just have your breakthrough.
Woodman had his, and today he not only has a hot commodity on his hands, but he's also inspired a social craze.
"I think probably the most personally satisfying thing to me about go pro is when I go on Facebook on GoPro's page and I see how many people around the world are so stoked on GoPro and their hero cameras," he said. "And more than that they're stoked to share their photos and videos they're capturing with each other online and share it with us... It gives me chills when I think about that."