GoPro Founder Nick Woodman: "I Am Doing This"

The GoPro founder on failure, finding a passion, and making your hardest-working decade count

nick woodman gopro founder age vitals history life advice

    Photo: Jeff Lipsky

"Nobody needs to get their ass kicked, but it definitely helps."

Vitals:

Age: 38
CV: Founded GoPro in 2002
$35,000: Amount he borrowed from his mom to get the company off the ground.

When I have a difficult decision to make, I imagine myself as a 90-year-old guy looking back on his life. I imagine what I’ll think about myself at that point in time, and it always makes it really easy to go for it. You’re only going to regret that you wimped out.

My first business was a retro-gaming site where you’d go and play all these cool old-school games. It was a good idea but ahead of its time. I was 26. I had raised $4 million of other people’s money, and when the economy tanked I lost it all. Nobody needs to get their ass kicked, but it definitely helps.

On the road and traveling—that’s when people are at their most creative.

As soon as I stopped trying to think about a business idea and started focusing on what I’m passionate about, that’s when it came to me.

I get pretty focused when I start working on something. And I drink a lot of water, way more than most people. When I was designing the early prototype straps for GoPro, I realized that if I wore my CamelBak, I wouldn’t have to keep getting up to refill my glass. My friends used to tease me: “Woodman, you’re such a nut job, sitting at your desk with a CamelBak on.” They don’t tease me anymore.

My twenties were my practice. My thirties were when I really hit my stride with GoPro and did all the heavy lifting to build the business.

I come from surfing, and surfing is the worst cool-guy industry of all. I decided long ago to try and kill the cool guy. And in a sense we did. But it wasn’t obvious. There was a period where it was like, is this going to fly? Now cool guys are rocking GoPros on their helmets, and… it’s cool.

I try to get in about one solid surfing trip a month. June was Chicama, Peru. July was Mexico.

It’s more a Yeeuuup! than a Yeeoooww! I’ve had it my whole life. When you see your buddies hucking a huge hit or just going after it, I gotta give them a shout out.

When I was first getting going, my sister told me, “Write yourself a Post-it note that says: ‘I am doing this, period.’ Stick it by your bed so when you roll over, it’s the first thing you see every morning when you wake up.” She had done this herself when she was going through a tough time. I did it and it totally worked. It’s a halo for your thirties. You are doing this. Make it count.

I still drink a couple of Red Bulls every day.

One of my mentors early on was Eli Harari, the founder of SanDisk, who happened to be a friend of my dad’s. I’m young and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, and I’m going on and on about what I want to do with GoPro, and he stops me and looks at me and says, “You want to be the number-one activity-capture company in the world. Just focus on that.” He said to tell people that when I explain GoPro and they’ll under-stand it very succinctly. And no shit, we did it.

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