Excitement abounds at the Inc. 500|5000 conference in Phoenix today! I'm thrilled to be blogging from the middle of the action.
I'm at the GoPro session along with about a thousand other businesses. I love GoPro because it seems like a great northern California company (as a San Francisco resident, I'm biased!), but these guys seem to be really, really fun, too.
Nick Woodman, GoPro's inventor and CEO, even came out on stage with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest, to self-document this experience he may not have again.
Here are a few new things I learned about Nick and GoPro:
1. Nick gave himself from 22 years old to 30 years old to achieve his goal. He had a huge fear of failing and didn't want to ever work for anyone else's dream but his own. He started his company when he was 26 and blissfully thanked Inc. for putting him on the cover of the magazine.
2. Viral is the word. We got to see some really great videos from people who wanted to share how they use their GoPro cameras. Their customers are so passionate! GoPro then uses these videos in their marketing. One of their customers fastened a camera to the back of a kayak, another fastened one to a weather balloon. They're both now in GoPro's commercials!
3. At least one GoPro video is tagged, titled and uploaded to YouTube every minute. All of this engaging content gives GoPro its viral growth.
4. GoPro now owns 20% of the U.S. pocket camcorder market share, and 30 percent of global market share. They've got 300 employees and GoPro products are sold in 100+ countries.
Nick then went on to talk about what most benefited him personally and for the company. Here are my three takeaways from his amazing presentation:
Most of us have to figure out what is our real passion and what is our guide. Nick traced his passion for surfing to his GoPro success. He chose to attend school near a great surfing spot because he thought that if he was happy, he'd do better in school. Throughout his education, he found his passion in visual art and photography.
He started an advertising business (a dot com) that failed. He then saved up $30,000, but had no idea what he wanted to do. At 26, he decided to take a five-month surf trip around the world to find inspiration. Ironically his great idea happened before he left. He wanted to capture his surfing adventures with a camera from his wrist. As he was prepping for the expedition, he went to work on a tiny wrist camera for surfers and continued to develop the camera while he was on his trip. He was so excited about it, that he returned home early to go to work on what would become GoPro.
After he'd been growing GoPro for awhile, he focused on another passion: race car driving. He always wanted to attend race car driving school. At the time, GoPro was making $3 million and had 30 employees. The race car company wanted to charge a ton of money to put a camera on the car. Nick attached the wrist camera to his race car. It was his lightbulb moment: This camera can attach to anything!
Lesson: Life takes turns to get you to where you need to focus--your passion. We don't always have to come up with brilliant ideas; sometimes, they come to us.
This seems obvious, but most people don't act on it. Working with people you truly like not only keeps you happy and motivated, it makes "work" feel less like work. Also, strong tribes can achieve anything, Nick says.
It was easy for Nick to hire people he liked because he was terrified to hire anyone he didn't. He sought out people he went to high school and college with and even family members. At one point, GoPro had just seven people and was generating $7 million per employee. They did the work of a team of 40! But it was OK, because they were having fun and people wanted to be a part of the GoPro brand.
Now at 300 employees, Nick says they still have that same culture. People love to go to work, over-deliver and be happy.
Lesson: Hire for cultural fit over experience any day.
According to Nick, if you're going to spend that much time at work every day, what you do should be big. Even though he's still pretty young, he thinks of himself as an old man looking back on his life; every time, it gives him the courage to do what he needs to do.
Most companies are risk-averse. Entrepreneurs need to be taking more risks and get more comfortable with risks. GoPro was built on a $265,000 investment, and look at where it is today.
Lesson: Don't let money be a barrier to growing a substantial business. You can get there through passion, people, dedication and execution.
Great session, Nick! I wonder what were some of the risks you took that failed?