Riding the Business Wave
Muir College alumi Nick Woodman '97 (left), Jill Woodman '99 and GoPro employees Neil Dana '96 and Justin Wilkenfeld '97 at Alumni Weekend 2014

Riding the Business Wave

Surf’s Up for GoPro Founder

For thrill-seeking surfer and GoPro founder Nick Woodman, Muir ’97, UC San Diego was a catalyst for creativity. At age eight he decided to become a surfer. When college beckoned, UC San Diego—with its surfing lifestyle and academic excellence—was his number-one choice.

Woodman received the UC San Diego Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2014. In June, during Alumni Weekend, he delivered a rousing two-hour chat that included hard-earned lessons on how to succeed in life and business. Never give up, follow your passion, be yourself, and work hard, he told a wildly cheering audience composed mostly of UC San Diego students. The shouting got even louder a few weeks later, when the company’s initial public offering (IPO) on Wall Street was one of the largest consumer electronics IPOs on record.

Woodman came to UC San Diego to study economics, realized he wasn’t interested in it, and switched to liberal arts. His classes in writing, acting, and visual arts delighted him—and helped him learn how to engage an audience and use a visual medium to persuade people to share his vision.

In 2002, as he and his friends prepared for a surfing trip to Indonesia, Bali, and Australia, an entrepreneurial light bulb went off. Woodman had a concept for a durable, wrist-mounted camera that would allow him to shoot photographs of his friends while they were surfing. The trip became an R&D mission to develop the idea. In 2004, Woodman released the first GoPro Hero film camera and wrist strap at the Action Sports Retailer convention in San Diego. By 2010, the operation Woodman had started with a handful of college buddies was the fastest-growing digital capture company in the world.

GoPro, with revenues of $1.3 billion in 2014, makes wearable HD camcorders or action cameras and accessories, curates videos shot on its cameras, and broadcasts these videos. The palm-sized cameras can be fastened to helmets, handlebars, ski polls, and surfboards.