Nick Woodman Excellent Adventure
Maxim Australia|May 2017

Not long after GoPro released its first product in 2004 — a wrist-mounted, waterproof, 35mm still camera called the Hero — company founder and CEO Nick Woodman made a pilgrimage to the headquarters of home shopping channel QVC in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Justin Rohrlich

The network was holding tryouts for new inventors eager to hawk their merchandise on-air, and after waiting in line with hundreds of other hopefuls, Woodman and his as-yet untested creation were selected to appear.

“I was researching online and I saw an ad for QVC’s 'Inventor Search’ competition, and it linked to an audition form and dates,” he says. “The only remaining date was at QVC’s headquarters in Pennsylvania in a few days. I figured I had a pretty good shot at getting on the show, so I bought a plane ticket and went for it. The line went outside of the building, and I was one of the last people to be interviewed. They loved my product idea and I made it on the show. That still ranks as an early career highlight for me and GoPro’s first break into the mass market. It was also an example of the power of having an 'I am doing this’ attitude. Think it. See it. Then do it. Boom.”

Woodman took to the airwaves immediately following the people behind a first-aid kit for animals called Medi+Pet. Woodman’s appearance went well, setting off an unlikely business success story. Although rudimentary, the Hero was an immediate triumph, and Woodman moved nearly 3,000 of them during his 10-minute segment. GoPro made about US$350,000 that year. In 2013, Woodman made Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list, with a net worth of US$1.3 billion. And in 2014, Woodman became the highest-paid CEO in America, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index, earning a stratospheric US$285 million .

Today, GoPro cameras are used by everyone from Olympic snow boarder Shaun White and Hollywood director Michael Bay to the NFL, police departments, and the U.S. military. Woodman travels in a GoPro Gulf stream G5 and will soon be the owner of a 180-foot yacht (with helipad) that accommodates 14 guests plus a dozen crew members. Despite some recent well-publicised setbacks, including a 47 percent revenue decline in the second quarter of 2016, followed by a drop of 40 percent in Q3, GoPro is still on track to generate between US$1.25 billion and US$1.3 billion for the year.

Woodman’s personal story was anything but a straight shot to success. After graduating from UC San Diego in 1997 with a degree in visual arts, the Menlo Park, California, native decided to try his hand at the tech industry. He launched a website called EmpowerAll.com, which sold deeply discounted consumer electronics. The venture failed. His next attempt, a “promotional entertainment platform” called Funbug.com, was a gaming site that paid out “Web-spendable” cash rewards. It, too, failed. Woodman, then 26, headed abroad to clear his head.

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