GoPro opens at $28.65, shares spike 30%

Reuters with CNBC.com
GoPro open for trading

Shares of GoPro, a maker of cameras used by surfers, skydivers and other action junkies to record and post their exploits online, rose as much as 38 percent in their market debut.

The company's shares rose to a high of $33 in early Nasdaq trading on Thursday, valuing the company that popularized action cameras for consumers at about $4 billion.

GoPro is the first U.S. consumer-electronics company to go public since headphones maker Skullcandy in 2011.

Videos taken using the company's wearable cameras have made a big splash on the Internet. The company says its videos attracted more than 1 billion views in the first quarter on YouTube, where its channel has 2 million subscribers.

Nick Woodman (R), founder and CEO of GoPro takes pictures with co-workers during the company's IPO at the Nasdaq on June 26, 2014.
Getty Images

GoPro was founded in 2004 by Nick Woodman, who hit upon the idea while on a surfing trip to Australia. He raised his first funds to develop the camera by selling seashell necklaces along the California coast.

"There probably hasn't been a consumer electronics brand as dominant as GoPro has been in its category since the early days of the iPod or the iPad,'' Dougherty & Co. analyst Charlie Anderson wrote in a note to clients.

Anderson estimates that GoPro has captured more than 90 percent of the action camera market.

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Felix Baumgartner's record-setting 24-mile (39-km) jump from a stratospheric balloon was captured using a GoPro camera. That video has attracted nearly 16 million views on YouTube.

Olympic gold medal winning snow boarder Shaun White and 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater are among well-known athletes who have endorsed the cameras.

GoPro cameras have also become popular among bands such as The Rolling Stones and Foo Fighters. The company received an Emmy award in 2013 for its contribution to the television industry.

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GoPro sold 8.9 million shares, while the rest were offered by selling stockholders, including Woodman and investors Riverwood Capital, Taiwanese electronics contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry and Sageview Capital Master.

Woodman, the company's chief executive and its largest shareholder with a 48 percent stake, sold about 3.6 million shares.

"They're always coming up with new ways to make it better," Michael Marks, GoPro board member and investor and founding partner of Riverwood Capital told CNBC's "Squawk Alley."

"This is not only product, but it's community," he said. "It's, you know, passion, it's authenticity and it's very hard to replicate that. So we're very bullish about the future of this company."

Private equity firm Riverwood owns 16 percent of the company while Hon Hai owns 10 percent through its indirect wholly owned subsidiary Foxteq Holdings. Sageview owns 6 percent.

Clicks with investors

The popularity of its Wi-Fi equipped cameras drove San Mateo, California-based GoPro's revenue to nearly $1 billion in 2013, an 88 percent increase from the year earlier. Its net profit doubled to about $61 million.

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"GoPro is a brand that defines a category, like Band-Aid or Uber, and is growing very fast. It helps that they are profitable,'' said Rett Wallace, chief executive of Triton Research, which analyzes startups.

Woodman's first version of the camera was a 35-mm film camera that was strapped to the wrist and retailed for $30 at surf shops and other niche stores.

The company took off in 2009 when it launched its first digital camera that shot HD video.

Most expensive GoPro video ever

The cameras range in price from about $200 to $400. Retailers include independent specialty stores and large companies such as Amazon.com and Wal-Mart.

Sales have grown rapidly outside the United States, with international revenue now more than half of the company's total in the first quarter of 2014, up from 35 percent in 2011.

GoPro this month hired as president Tony Bates, a former Microsoft executive who was reported to have been a CEO candidate before Satya Nadella's appointment.

The IPO raised $427.2 million, after its offering of 17.8 million class A shares was priced at $24, the high end of the expected price range.The stock trades under the symbol "GPRO" on the Nasdaq. (Click to see how the stock is trading.)

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JP Morgan, Citigroup and Barclays were lead underwriters for the IPO.

—By Reuters. CNBC contributed to this report.