Nick Woodman, the founder of GoPro, gave a great keynote about the value of “ignorance” for startups. He made the point during a keynote at the recent NVCA lunch in Silicon Valley (we hosted the NVCA Board meeting at our office). He said that GoPro benefited from ignorance twice:
1. He started the company to provide motion capture for the surfing market (he wanted to capture his own surfing experiences) without realizing the small size of the surfing market. However, based on his experience at a car racing school, he recognized that he would be able to expand the market for GoPro cameras to other sports. He moved the camera from his wrist to a mount on the top of the car: this “mount” enabled him to expand to many other sports, such as cycling and skiing.
2. He was approached by foreign distributors early in the company’s history at a conference, but he did not know that “standard payment terms” for international sales were sixty days after delivery: he told them that they would need to pay in advance (he suggested that they get terms from VISA). He was able to expand internationally without raising the significant capital needed to fund the “payment gap”.
Although “ignorance” is an odd virtue to promote for startups, I think that these lessons can be better characterized as the importance of doing what you know (and are passionate about) and don’t be constrained by “standard practices” if they don’t fit your business model.
He finished by describing how GoPro has concluded that content was key to their success: the content created by their customers (GoPro customers post over 6,000 videos on YouTube every day). They want to create a positive feedback loop for their customers so they use the cameras (and other services) more. Consequently, GoPro now measure their success by metrics for “content” companies, such as customer engagement (Nick noted that GoPro has a better “brand audience rate of engagement” than Universal Pictures). A very inspiring speech and great videos!