TECHNOLOGY

GoPro is Synonymous With Founder Nick Woodman (And That's a Bad Thing)

The high performance camera company may be profitable, but the risks are tough to ignore.
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Everyone's favorite mini-HD camera company, GoPro, revealed key financial details in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing Tuesday, prior to its initial public offering later this year. It expects to raise $100 million from the offering, and GoPro laid bare a possible overreliance on its founder.

First, the numbers. The good news for GoPro is they look pretty decent, if only in comparison to many of its technology peers. Among others, BoxCoupons.com and Twitter struggle with profitabiliy. Though earnings have fallen in recent months, GoPro reported $11 million of profit on $235 million in revenue for the first quarter 2014, ended March 31. That represents a 52 percent decrease in profit and 7 percent drop in revenue, compared with the same period in 2013.

For the full year 2013, ended December 13, GoPro reported $985 million of revenue, nearly double what it reported for the same period in 2012, when it also reported a doubling of revenue. Net income for full year 2013 was $60 million, nearly double that for full year 2012.

But the bigger story may reside with GoPro's CEO and personality-in-chief Nicholas Woodman. Within the "risks" section of GoPro's filing, the company listed that one of its biggest concerns for its ongoing health is the loss of Woodman. "Mr. Woodman is critical to the strategic direction and overall management of our company as well as our research and development process... The loss of Mr. Woodman could adversely affect our business, financial condition and operating results," noted the company in its S-1 filing document.

In that regard, GoPro is like many small businesses (and some big ones, too) that can't survive without the founder. One could argue that Apple's reliance on the late Steve Jobs likely hurt the company after his departure and death. So, naturally, the company's stated reliance on its founder might serve as a red flag for GoPro, just as it would for any company that wants to promote a sense of brand longevity.  

Other Risks

Among other risks, GoPro says it operates in a highly competitive market (Read: Google Glass, and almost every smart phone maker that equips mobile phones with a video camera.) It also is highly dependent on sales cycles, and needs to have a strong Christmas sales season in order to meet its earnings expectations for the year.

Woodman, who earned a salary of $800,000 and a bonus of $1 million in 2013, also owns 49 percent of GoPro. Investment firm Sageview Capital owns 6 percent and Woodman's college chum Neil Dana, a sales executive for GoPro, owns 5.5 percent.

GoPro will list on the tech-heavy NASDAQ under the ticker GPRO, as opposed to the New York Stock Exchange, where other tech companies, such as Twitter, have listed in order to head off feared first-day trading snafus such as Facebook experienced in 2012.

GoPro did not report the number of shares it proposed to sell, or a price per share, but an internal assessment at the company in March 2014 valued shares at $16.39. At that valuation, GoPro would be selling more than 6 million shares in the offering.

GoPro joins more than 60 smaller companies that have filed for secret IPOs in the past two years. The best-known in the group is Twitter, which filed its public documents with the SEC in October.

A provision of the JOBS Act of 2012 allows companies valued at $1 billion or less to file their public papers a few weeks before they intend to go public. By filing confidentially, companies can avoid a protracted period of public scrutiny.

The lead underwriters for the offering are J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, and Barclays.

Inc. Live: Nick Woodman highlights

Nick Woodman reveals how eager, engaged customers sharing each other's content can lead to incredible growth.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: May 20, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER | Staff Writer | Staff Writer, Inc. and Inc.com

Jeremy Quittner is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and Inc.com. He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.




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