A Fascinating Look at How GoPro Became the Best-Selling Camera in the World

The very first GoPro was sold by company founder and CEO Nick Woodman out of his van all the way back in 2004, and it took 35mm film. Fast forward 9 years and now Woodman is a billionaire whose creation is officially the best-selling camera in the entire world.

The story of GoPro’s meteoric rise to unprecedented success is, as you might imagine, an interesting one. And now 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper are telling you that story with some help from Woodman, who fills in the parts that are less known and, at times, not so glamorous.


It’s easy to look at Woodman’s success and attribute it all to sheer luck, but when the idea for the GoPro first came to him he was in his mid twenties and had just lost 4 million dollars of venture capital on a failed startup. The following years were spent selling his clunky GoPros to surf shops out of his van, continuously updating them until they were no longer film cameras, but extremely portable video capture devices.

He pinpoints the moment he realized that GoPro was going to be more than just a surfing camera, but rather an “everything” camera, to a day on the race track when he declined the track’s offer to rent him a camera for his car for $100 per 30 minute session, and instead strapped his own creation to the roll bar. People started asking questions, and the proverbial lightbulb just went off.

Here’s a look back at a few of the most recent GoPro videos to go viral online:

Now Woodman is the head of a company that has doubled its sales figures every single year. Last year GoPro made over 500 million dollars… and final 2013 sales numbers are expected to show yet another doubling. Armed with quality technology and a user base that pretty much does all of their advertising for them, GoPro doesn’t expect growth to slow any time soon.

To hear the whole story from the man himself and see the truly humble beginnings of the camera that is now selling better than any other camera on Earth, be sure to check out the embedded video at the top. And, just for fun, if you have an awesome GoPro creation (video or still), share a link in the comments! We’d love to see all of the creative uses the PetaPixel readership has come up with for the cam.

(via The Verge)

  • Sky

    “How GoPro Became the Most Popular Camera in the World” – Not even close. At least – not by any statistic I ever seen.

  • Killroy™

    Evil f***ing company. We never buy their cameras retail. We buy them on CL so they don’t get a dime of our money.

  • Mike

    Cool story, but agree with Sky. I would guess the most “popular” camera is the iPhone.

  • Zach Fox

    Just curious – why do you think that?

  • Killroy™

    How easily people forget how they treated DigitalRev and how they used a bogus DMCA takedown to kill an unfavorable review and never ever apologized for it.

  • Zach Fox

    Ah. Do you think that that one mistake, while undoubtedly significant, is enough to call GoPro an “evil f***ing company” and never give them a dime of your money?

    GoPro is so successful because they make excellent products, and I don’t think that the way that their legal department treated DigitalRev is enough to outweigh that fact.

  • SuperSaggio

    iPhone it’s not a camera, it’s a smartphone with a pretty nice camera that is one of its main selling point, but it’s not a camera. GoPro is a camera.

    While iPhone HAS the most popular camera in the world (probably there are 100 iPhones for every GoPro), GoPro IS the best selling camera on the planet.

  • So so

    Obviously is not luck, it’s money. The difference between having enough money to proper prototyping is the difference between success and failure in many cases, this is not different.

  • A.J.

    Excellent Products? The GoPro Hero 3 was infamous for being a gigantic piece of crap with numerous problems. That thing turned into an expensive paperweight for a lot of people.

  • ianmcc

    He does address this misstep in the 60 mins piece

  • Zach Fox

    Sure, but a vast majority of consumers love the Hero 3. Look at Amazon reviews posted after GoPro released a few firmware updates, and most of them are positive (except the ones who obviously don’t know how to update their camera). My friends who own one love it. On top of this, obviously the ones who denounce the product will be louder than the ones who enjoy it.

    Doesn’t it make sense that there’s a reason why they’re the leader in this market segment?

    I have no reason to defend GoPro, and you’re certainly allowed to have your opinions, but it upsets me when people outright *hate* companies/people/products without considering the bigger picture, or – worse – because hating something popular is cool (i.e. many Apple haters).

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    best selling camera in the world? HAHAHAHA ( NOOOO WAYYY)…I’ve never even seen one up close and I shoot photos 24/7..and ..btw..this dude has “really evil eyes”

  • KLC

    Couldn’t any small point and shoot take the same video? What they have is not excellent products but savvy marketers who have tapped into the extreme sports zeitgeist. A few guys take video diving off buildings or doing 360s on their mountain bike and a million wanna bes buy the camera hoping for some reflected glory.

  • SuperSaggio

    Times word popular appears in this article = 0

  • Sky

    According to who? GoPro? Company GoPro paid to make studies?
    Flickr, amazon, and every sales statistic I’ve seen in last 4 years show different cameras bein most popular / best selling.
    (Eg. According to flickr right now it’s 5D mk3)

  • nelmindo

    well, heat dust and tears Sony… You don,t upgrade your SONY CCD-SP7 SPORTS HANDYCAM…
    its karma

  • Zach Fox

    1. I don’t know of any small point and shoot, let alone at this price point, that would let me shoot in 4K, with so many resolution/framerate options, and at such a wide angle.

    2. I don’t know of any small point and shoot with so many mounting options.

    3. I don’t know of any small point and shoot that takes the same quality video and is also waterproof.

    4. Isn’t savvy marketing part of what makes a company good, and its products successful? I don’t mind watching GoPro’s ads most of the time, because some of them are *really cool.* I also don’t see savvy marketing as being a bad thing. In a similar vein, I don’t drink Red Bull, but I really enjoy watching their productions.

  • SuperSaggio

    Flickr doesn’t show you the best selling camera. It show you the most popular.

    iPhone is the most popular because it’s in almost everyone pocket (i’m writing from an iPhone right now).

    GoPro has surely sold 10+ milion cameras. If not 20. I will search. But we speak about selling here. 5d mk III cannot be even colse. It’s 3k dollar vs 300 bucks camera

  • George

    I think a bunch of the success of gopro is how many different ways you can use it or mount it.

  • pc

    no, there are (sadly) no other point-and-shoot-cameras that offer the same technology for less money.
    sony’s too expensive, contour died…
    and no, not even canons/nikons dslrs/video cameras for double the price are able to shoot at that resolution/framerate…

  • Matthew Wagg

    All I’d be concerned about is that the people in their adverts get paid. Or is it another case of the photographer never gets paid…

  • KLC

    yeah, because we all need 4k video to post on Facebook…

    All of this doesn’t begin to make “the best selling camera in the world” Everything that you and Zach cite make it no more than a niche product. And if that is your niche then more power to you. But millions of GoPros aren’t sold every year because the huddled masses need 4k or dozens of mounting options, etc, etc. Millions are sold because the wanna bes hope to be seen as extreme participators in the extreme lifestyle while drinking Red Bull and commuting to their cubicle in their Nissan Versa.

  • lidocaineus

    GoPro: Proof that advertising will win over consumers better than an actual quality product.

  • YJawhar

    What do you mean when you say CL?

  • Killroy™


  • Mark Vick

    this guys my hero.

  • edlau

    I think people complaining about the GoPro cameras being “crap” are just nitpicking. Millions of people around the world disagree. The absolute worst thing that’s ever happened with mine is that it hung a few times and I had to take out the battery. OH NOES.

    And evil? Wow. Mountains out of molehills.

  • dullly

    Also, they never even came close to answering the question of their own headline.

  • dullly

    I have an invention idea that blows this away. My invention is a camera, that has a phone on it.

  • Me

    Sky…why u so bitter, u being paid?