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This post is otherwise known as “The Amazing Story of my friend Nicholas Woodman.” Six years ago, at CES 2007, I was at the Wall Street Journal’s party at the Wynn hotel, when a funny man with a device on his arm approached me. Me being me, I asked what that funny device wrapped around his arm was. He told me it was a prototype of something called the GoPro camera. I was intrigued. It was small, and it fit on his wrist – and it recorded video?! I was a newly minted skydiver, and always a geek, so I was very intrigued. We exchanged cards, and I shot a photo of him wearing said peculiar device.
When I got home, we emailed a few times, and he sent me the first generation model. It was called the “GoPro Hero” at the time, and it was simply a video recording device stuck in a waterproof housing. The lens was a normal non-wide angle lens, so unless the subject was a decent distance away, it didn’t capture much up close. But I was still intrigued, and as far as I know, I was the first skydiver to ever wear one on a jump, during a skydive I made in Z-Hills, Florida. (It may have been Sebastian, Florida, I don’t remember. Video at the bottom.) Anyhow, last week, it was announced that Nicholas Woodman, this scrappy kid I met at CES, sold 8.88% of his company to FoxConn, (yes, that FoxConn,) for $200 million dollars, effectively making Nicholas a billionaire. I couldn’t be more
jealous of thrilled for him, as he deserves every penny, because, let’s face it, he gave birth to an industry that didn’t before exist. Below, in my belief, is some of how he did it. Can you do the same with your startup? 1) Nicholas built a brand around an audience that needed it, not the other way around. Let’s face it – He built a camera. If you’re using a camera, you’re doing so to capture and share the moment. Everyone who wants to do that has a reason to carry a camera. A lot of the best times to capture the best images with a camera, however, come when you can’t actually hold said camera. Before GoPro, only pros wore cameras in sports and such. They were expensive, had to be mounted, and weren’t designed for the market. Nicholas built something designed for the market to which they sell. He didn’t do it the other way around – I.e., he didn’t build a product and try to get an audience to like it – He built a product for a market that cried out for it. Is your startup designed to capture a market that already exists and needs your product? If you’re building a startup, and then first have to go out and convince an audience they need it, you’re making a ton more work for yourself. 2) From day one, Nicholas built a product with word of mouth built into it! Now granted, he had it easy – It’s a camera. Everyone wants to, as GoPro’s tagline says, “Be a hero,” and the best way to be a hero is to capture what cool things you’re doing – Whether you’re skydiving, rock climbing, surfing, parasailing, or even jumping into the Green Grotto off the Amalfi Coast, as I did this past summer.