he continues, was that “the teams were killing themselves to
launch the products on time. We were doing too many things,
and it was taking too long to make decisions because management was juggling too many projects at once.” Brown puts it
more bluntly: “We knew that if we didn’t fgure out some way
to reorganize, the company was just not going to survive.”
WEEKS AFTER THE KARMA RECALL, GoPro announced layofs. Then,
in March 2017, a month after the Karma was fnally reintroduced, came a second round of layofs. All told, around 500
people were fred—more than a quarter of the company. The
entertainment division was shuttered, though a few dozen
company stalwarts stayed on. Management took a big hit too:
More than 40 percent of the people at VP level or higher
departed, says Prober.
Before the IPO, GoPro had been a fairly simple operation,
with sales, marketing, engineering, and design teams working
on all of the company’s products. After the IPO, as GoPro tried
to build new businesses, the company moved to a more siloed
structure, where multiple divisions—software, hardware,
media—ran largely as separate business units. This bred more
bureaucracy and made communication and collaboration
difcult—which, Prober contends, enabled some mistakes. With
the layofs, GoPro went back to its earlier, fatter structure.
“We decided to simplify everything and get back to the business
that we knew and loved as a private company,” Woodman says.
“We talk all the time about how a business really is like a
person,” he continues, “and that if you are trying to live up
to other people’s expectations, you’re going to live a miserable
life. If you’re trying to be something you’re not, everybody’s
going to know it, and nobody’s going to think highly of you
for it. And the truer that you can be to yourself, the better
chance you have of fully realizing your potential. As soon as
I was able to think of [restructuring] in those terms, it was
just like, ‘OK. Well, here’s what we’ve got to do.’ ”
Woodman started sharing his contrition with the entire
company. Previously, GoPro had held quarterly all-hands pep
rallies, called hangs, but now the company added more subdued
monthly afairs, with Woodman standing in front of a few hun-
dred employees (the rest watched online) giving a speech and
then taking hard questions for as long as two hours. “Nick is
so charismatic, he has such a positive vibe,” says his old buddy
Schmidt, “that it was hard to watch him sit for 30 seconds and
try to compose himself to fnd the words to encourage people.”
There are indications that the new strategy is working. The
Hero6 camera shipped to retailers early and was ready for sale
the day it was announced. The company produces far fewer
videos than a year ago, but they perform better. “The mean video
views is up 65 percent,” Prober says.
Woodman credits more realistic goals. “We used to try to
hit home runs every year,” he says. “We would rather hit singles, doubles, and triples consistently.” It’s not as sexy as breaking into entertainment, but it is how you lead a more grown-up
company toward measured, long-term growth.
W OODMAN KNOWS IT WILL TAKE TIME for GoPro to mend its reputation. “Say you have a friend who goes of the rails and isn’t very reliable,” he says, “and then he or she comes to tell you, ‘I recognize I’ve not been a great friend, and I’m changing that.’ You’d be very appreciative, but
you’d be super suspect of that individual for a long time.”
Making a convincing case starts with the products. At the
launch event this past September, the company announced
many upgrades to its Hero camera, including a custom-
designed chip that enables more stable and higher-resolution
action shots. It made ofoading, editing, and sharing videos
easier than ever, thanks to a clever automatic editor that
stitches clips together for you. And it announced a new spheri-
cal camera called Fusion, which can pull out any still or mov-
ing image from the spherical footage—a feature called
OverCapture that essentially makes it possible to shoot in mul-
tiple directions at once and frame your photo or video after
you shoot it. Which is a serious bit of innovation.
And yet the company faces many challenges. The
worry for GoPro used to be that other electronics com-
panies would create cheaper action cams that might eat
away at GoPro’s lead. That’s happened. Today the big-
ger threat may be to GoPro’s core mission. Woodman
has long talked about how his company helps people
“capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experi-
ences,” but now that idea is everywhere. Smartphone
cameras are better than ever, Snap unveiled Spectacles
in late 2016, and Google announced a wearable camera
called Clips that aims to help people passively flm their
lives—and those are just a few recent developments.
Woodman argues that GoPro doesn’t compete with smart-
phone cameras, but rather makes “untethered lenses” for
phones. That is, GoPros are accessories that unlock possibilities
for tech-enabled amateur auteurs. He foresees new forms of
cameras and storytelling tools that change what’s possible—as
the original GoPro did, and the new Fusion’s OverCapture does.
It’s a future Woodman will have to invent without all of
his buddies around him. Since the IPO, most have retired and
returned to the surfng life, just with a lot more money.
“There are points when I look at what they’re doing and say,
‘Wow, that looks pretty good,’” Woodman admits. “But I can
tell that I’m doing what I’m meant to do right now. It feels
good to be part of this team that’s turning GoPro around.
This is my baby.” He’s surfng too. The waves are treacherous. But he’s still standing.
TOM FOSTER is an Inc. editor-at-large.
“I’M THE ONE WHO
PUT THE CART BEFORE