GoPro founder shares how he went from selling shells out of his van to the CEO of a billion-dollar company

GoPro CEO Nick Woodman
Photo by Josh Edelson

To launch his company GoPro, Nick Woodman and his wife scraped together $30,000 in part by selling shell-jewelry and belts out of a VW van in California.

They borrowed another $235,000 from his mother and father.

A decade later, the company went public, and currently GoPro has more than 1,700 employees. The company is worth more than a billion dollars.

"We had very humble beginnings," says Woodman in a live Facebook chat from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

GoPro has been worth almost 10 times as much as it is now, but shares of the stock fell off dramatically in part because of production problems the company encountered at the end of last year. Woodman, now 41 years old, says GoPro will return to profitability in 2017.

He also says that his success as an entrepreneur is a result of his perseverance and dedication.

"One thing I always tell entrepreneurs is if you can out-passion and out-commit and out-determine your competition," then you will be successful. "For some reason, most humans give up. They just do.

"I think the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who tell themselves, 'I am going to die before I give up on this effort.'"

The way to maintain your effort over the long haul, the CEO believes, is to make sure your project inspires and excites you.

"You have got to be focused on something that you are personally passionate about," says Woodman.

In addition to tenacity, Woodman says part of what allowed him to succeed was his own naivete. He studied visual arts in college, not business.

"I followed my gut, because I didn't know any better," says Woodman. "One of the great benefits of ignorance is just you can create something that hasn't existed before because you didn't know any better."

The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who tell themselves, 'I am going to die before I give up.'
Nick Woodman
founder and CEO of GoPro

Woodman says that while it's imperative to always seek out wisdom from experts, it's just as important to filter that advice.

"Be careful how much you listen to other people," says Woodman. If you follow the prescriptions of other people too precisely, you will end up exactly where they did. And if you are trying to build something new and innovative, that may not be where you want to go.

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