Nick Woodman, the CEO and founder of GoPro discussed drones, innovation and the role of law and regulation before a receptive crowd last night at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Woodman’s remarks took place at the Leaders in Technology dinner, hosted by the sponsor of CES, the Consumer Electronic Association.
Dressed in a t-shirt, Woodman asked an excited crowd if they would like to see GoPro manufacture a drone. His question was received with enthusiastic cheers, but he then declined to speak about GoPro’s specific plans for drones, joking “It’s so much better to tease you guys. I could string this along for five years.” But shortly after showing a video filmed with a GoPro mounted to a drone, Woodman began to open up about how he feels about drones and why he believes they are a big part of the entertainment and media future. “GoPro is good for drones and drones are good for GoPro. Look at what people are doing in 2015, just think about what they will be doing in 5 years.” Woodman said.
Woodman, who is number 129 on The Forbes 400, brought the company he founded public in June and since then GoPro’s stock price has soared with his net worth estimated at $3 billion and the company expected to have revenues hit $1.2 billion this year. The company began as a hardware company making small action sports cameras. Woodman built the first camera prototype with his mom’s sewing machine and a drill. The company released their first video camera, a 35-millimeter waterproof film version, in 2004 and went on to sell it everywhere from surf shops to home shopping network QVC.
But now Woodman sees GoPro as more than a hardware company, “We enable people to tell stories” he said. He sees the company as making a transition from hardware to a big media company, citing the success of the GoPro Channel as part of the company’s future direction. The GoPro Channel is already distributed through media platforms like the Xbox One and Xbox 360 entertainment systems, in-flight entertainment on Virgin America, and social channels including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, Pinterest and GoPro.com/Channels. At CES, GoPro announced a partnership with LG, which will feature the GoPro Channel on their smart TVs.
Woodman believes that in the near term we will see GoPro competing with the biggest media and entertainment companies. “Every person in the world has passions and interests and we enable them to self document those interests.” Woodman said, “So long as people want to tell stories about their passions, and so long as we provide them solutions to do that, we will be a successful company.” Woodman also hinted at the company’s future plans to put a GoPro camera on every player in professional sports, enabling the viewer at home to choose their own second or third screen experience while watching the game on the main feed or channel.
That vision for the company complemented Woodman’s views on drones, which he described as a device that allows people to tell stories with as few obstacles as possible. Consumer drones as an industry are predicted to surpass $102 million in revenues in 2015, a 49% increase over last year. That growth comes despite a difficult and confusing regulatory environment in which the FAA has missed multiple deadlines for the promulgation of rules to govern drones.
Woodman drew the loudest cheers when discussing regulation and innovation. He described how great people can come up with great ideas, so long as government does not get in the way. Talking specifically about drones, Woodman said “There needs to be some regulation to keep it safe, but we need room to allow the industry to blossom. It’s easy to focus on how things can go wrong, but we need to make sure we allow things to go right. A drone with a GoPro is much safer than a helicopter with a crew and a large heavy camera.”