Meet the world's newest billionaire

January 7, 2013, 11:20 am Alyson Shontell Business Insider

A 36-year-old 'surfer dude' named Nicholas Woodman.


Nick Woodman is the 36-year-old founder and CEO of GoPro, a wearable camera produced by Woodman Labs that can capture footage for athletes as they whiz down a mountain or surf 6-foot waves.

Last week, Foxconn purchased 8.88% of Woodman's camera company for $200 million. Forbes learned that Woodman is the majority owner. Even if he owns minimum of 51% of the company, that means Woodman is now a billionaire, worth at least $1.15 billion.

Inc interviewed the GoPro founder over the summer. Reporter Tom Foster paints a picture of a "total bro" who throws around the word "dude" frequently. He's a thrill seeker and also the survivor of a failed dotcom startup.

Here's his story:


Woodman was a visual arts major from UC San Diego who started a marketing company called funBag in the early 2000s.

He raised outside capital for the operation, and things were looking good. Then the tech bubble burst, and Woodman found himself failing to save his company and out of a job.

So in 2002, when he was inspired to try a startup again, he decided he'd do whatever he could to bootstrap the operation and build something that could be instantly profitable.

An idea struck him while surfing in Australia and Indonesia for five months. Woodman had been frustrated that he couldn't take good action shots of himself or his friends while they were catching waves. Surfers were using disposable cameras strapped to their wrists with a rubber band. It would often fly off in the middle of the action and hit them in the face.

Woodman wanted to invent a strong, adjustable, elastic band that could secure a camera to a person's body as they participated in an extreme sport.

To fund the project, Woodman and his now-wife purchased 600 belts made of sea shells from a Bali market. Each cost them $1.90. When the Woodmans returned to the states, they drove up and down California's coast selling the belts for as much as $60 a pop.

With that money and a US$35,000 loan from his mother, Woodman created the first GoPro camera straps. It took him 2 years to perfect the product. Jill, Woodman's wife, took the position as the straps' salesperson. The company's first break came in 2004, when a Japanese company ordered 100 items at an action sports tradeshow.

Eventually, Woodman began creating his own cameras and mounts, so extreme athletes like racecar drivers could point the cameras back on themselves while racing. Enthusiasts began uploading videos of their GoPro experiences online, and word spread.

Now, GoPro's cameras retail for US$300 with all sorts of add-ons that can be purchased to capture amazing moments in real-time. The company has grown to 150 people, and Woodman is rolling in cash.

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