GoPro: Hardware Enabled Content for the HERO in All of Us

What makes a hardware producer a content media company?

My first encounter with a GoPro was on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. My dive master had one strapped to his head and caught video and still footage of incredible underwater scenes including sharks, turtles, and of course us divers looking fashionable in our wetsuits and flippers. After watching a video of our undersea adventures I bought a GoPro immediately upon returning home.  At the time I still thought GoPro was just a hardware company, however hardware is just one component of GoPro’s business model.

GP-Cycle_converted (1)
GoPro Virtuous Cycle (2)


In the words of the company’s CEO, Nicholas Woodman, “GoPro enables people to capture and share engaging experiences and compelling content by providing them with the world’s most versatile capture solutions: our cameras, accessories and software.”(1)

The small size and immense versatility of the camera and its various accessories appeal to those looking for quick and easy ways to capture their adventures – from extreme sports to world travel.  After recording their antics on video, the GoPro software allows them to easily review, edit and share content on social media. The User Generated Content (UGC) and GoPro generated content shared on the internet strengthens the GoPro brand and inspires others to buy GoPro devices and share their own adventures thereby creating a virtuous cycle driving both hardware sales and content sharing. The alignment of the business and operating models facilitates this virtuous cycle.




All of GoPro’s HERO cameras are small and easy to use, and their accessories allow you to use the camera almost anywhere. Accessories include waterproof cases, body mounts as well as mounts for bike handlebars, surfboards, helmets, and all other manner of equipment.

GoPro currently has two software products – GoPro Studio and the GoPro App. The Studio allows users to easily edit content and the app allows users to control their camera from Bluetooth enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets and then easily review and download content.


Since the business model is so customer focused, GoPro also takes a user-driven approach to innovation. The hardware development team focuses on improving performance, functionality and ease of use while the software development team makes content management, editing and sharing as convenient and easy as possible.

GoPro user cycle (2)

Organization & People 

The company has been growing rapidly and as of the end of 2014 they had 970 employees, with 415 in R&D and 322 in Sales & Marketing. They also spend ~14% of revenues on sales and marketing as compared to 11% on R&D. These numbers alone indicate that GoPro recognizes that its brand and content are just as important as its hardware.

Although UGC is an important form of earned media, GoPro also has its own media department that focuses on creating more GoPro content to post online and on the GoPro Channel section of the company website. All of this serves to further strengthen the GoPro brand.


Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Although GoPro products are designed in California, the company outsources manufacturing to two contract manufacturers in Shenzhen, China. However, the company does have an in house strategic commodity team that focuses on the procurement strategy and pricing of key components. Thus, GoPro can keep focusing on design and content innovation rather than manufacturing.

GP-POP (1)
POP Displays (2)

After cameras go through the fulfillment centers and are shipped overseas they enter GoPro’s Direct and Indirect Sales channels. GoPro supplies products to more than 25,000 retailers and 50 distributors in over 100 countries around the world. Although 59% of revenue came from direct sales in 2014 (independent specialty, big box and mid-market retailers as well as e-commerce), dedicated sales personnel work closely with retailers and distributors to decide on the best product mix, marketing and in-store merchandising.  Since there are no GoPro stores, the company needs to protect its brand and make sure that a consistent message comes through at all points of sale. Part of this strategy includes the in-store Point of Purchase (POP) displays that come in three different sizes but have consistent branding and include rolling video footage to inspire potential buyers.


GoPro’s latest financial results for Q3 2015 were very positive with quarter-over-quarter revenue, unit sales and margin growth.  However, the share prices has been steadily falling since August amid investor concerns that GoPro’s market is smaller than expected, the fact that the HERO4 has been repriced twice and that GoPro is still a one product company.  However, international markets and vertical integration are potential growth opportunities that management has already expressed interest in, we’ll just have to wait and see if they can leverage their existing model to execute on these initiatives.

GoPro Generated Content from GoPro Channel (5)


  1. GoPro 2014 Annual Report (
  2. GoPro Q3 2015 Investor Presentation (
  3. The Motley Fool (
  4. The Motley Fool (
  5. GoPro Channel (



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Student comments on GoPro: Hardware Enabled Content for the HERO in All of Us

  1. Do you think GoPro needs to expand beyond one product? They have recently introduced the “GoPro Session,” a mini version of their other cameras, but they are also facing new pressure from large corporations such as Sony and Garmin. For the last few years GoPro was by far the dominant player in this market, do you think this will continue or do they need to do something disruptive to stay on top?

  2. Love the product, question whether they’ll remain a dominant player in 10 years. It seems that now that larger industry titans have caught on to this consumer demand, that they’ll be able to easily enter the market, and leverage their existing manfacturing/camera/tech experience.

    If GoPro can continue to innovate ahead of the field they’ll be in good shape, but they don’t have many ‘moats’ protecting them.

  3. Great post, Seanna! The 11% of revenue spend in R&D sounds alarming to me given what seems like low barriers to entry here (seems like any tech hardware competitor could essentially manufacture a similar camera). Also, it’s a shame that GoPro hasn’t created a centralized/dedicated social destination for users to upload and share their content. This content creation could become a huge asset for the company and turn its digital presence into more of a platform.

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