The GoPro camera, created by Nick Woodman is perhaps the ultimate lifestyle accessory. Created in a garage, not the R&D lab of a major tech company the GoPro was designed to solve a problem, namely that of capturing Action Sports like surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding – up close. Traditionally all other action sports were filmed from far away. In the case of surfing, this meant from the shore or from a JetSki – both of which prevent the viewers from really experiencing what surfing is like from the surfer’s perspective. It is this drive to provide the audience with a genuine sense of what the experience looks like, that makes Nick Woodman and GoPro feature on our list of Icons of #restlessthinking

Fall down twice get up three times

GoPro was actually Woodman’s third commercial venture, his first two, both internet ventures, failed somewhat spectacularly. On moving back in with his parents (aged 26) Woodman gave himself 4 years to develop a product that worked. Woodman worked incredible hours, sometimes 20 hours a day, earning the cash to develop his product, whilst also designing his new product by hand, because he didn’t have the requisite computer skills to work in CAD.

His aim to create a camera that could capture the world’s most reckless activities came at a time when the boom in ‘extreme sports’ meant that he would be onto a winner, if only he could create a product fast enough, so that one of the massive multinational tech companies didn’t beat him to the punch.

Getting it right

Whilst Woodman can’t be considered a tech guru along the same lines as Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, his commitment to getting his products ‘just right’ can’t be faulted. Rather than race to market, Woodman has delayed roll-outs and launch dates to ensure the product being launched is right for the intended market and fulfils his goals for the product.

Woodman is also not averse to rolling his sleeves up and ‘grafting’ – appearing on QVC in the early days of GoPro in 2005, flogging his early models. Fast forward 12 years and Woodman is the head of a multi-billion dollar company producing, cameras, drones, software and the associated accessories for the action sports industry and importantly the normal consumer market.

Woodman’s distillation of the essence of the GoPro mission is equal parts corporate messaging and Surfer Bro:

“Our goal was to create a celebration of inspired humans doing rad stuff around the world.”

Woodman is, to an extent, underselling the GoPro effect. The 13-year-old company not only has celebrated the antics of those inspired humans, it has also created a virtuous circle of video reinforcement that defines and motivates the culture of extreme sports and in the process created a lifestyle brand and household name.

Where next?

Perhaps the most exciting development, certainly for the team here at Restless, is GoPro’s development of the Fusion. Fusion is a true 360-degree camera that creates truly immersive VR experiences for the average user.

For us, VR arrived a couple of years ago, with much fanfare and fireworks, but it was limited, requiring big investment and equipment infrastructure. Ultimately it was hampered by the lack of consumer uptake and whilst it’s nice to know about it, there has been little call for it professionally. Fusion looks set to change this landscape, by creating truly immersive VR experiences from a single camera that can be shared on youtube. Obviously, the action sports applications are there, but we like to think about all the other applications. Imagine films shot inside galleries or product videos for housing developers or estate agents shot inside the actual house. Imagine coaching videos from outdoor sports coaches, where you can experience every nuance of the visual experience instead of just the footage defined by the creator.

GoPro makes our list because as a brand they’re not just constantly evolving, they’re actually driving consumer behaviour. As a tech company they focus on consumer experience, rather than get hung up on technical specifics and we salute them for it.