History Of GoPro: A Complete Timeline Of GoPro’s Evolution

When you see someone biking by with a small, square camera strapped onto the handlebar or notice someone climb onto the ski lift with a black box mounted on his or her helmet, you know an adventure is about to happen. Let's dive into the history of GoPro.

The mighty mini camera known as the GoPro has a well-established reputation for capturing extreme sports and travel experiences through stunning videos and photos. How did the GoPro become a go-to recording device for sports enthusiasts?

What is the company’s role in modern day society? Where will GoPro be in the next few years? This article about the history of GoPro tells the story of a camera that is responsible for relaying some of the most exciting stories of the modern age.

History of gopro

History of GoPro Camera: Building a Company


The history of GoPro begins in Australia, with a surfboard and a 26-year-old named Nick Woodman. The California native studied visual arts and graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 1997 with a strong interest in the technology industry.

His first two entrepreneurial attempts out of college included creating the websites EmpowerAll.com and Funbug.com, both of which failed. Mentally recovering from these disappointing ventures meant a surfing trip to Australia with his girlfriend, Jill Scully.

While surfing the waves, Woodman surfaced upon an idea. He wanted to capture quality surfing photos from neat angles without spending high amounts of money on top-of-the-line photography equipment usually reserved for professional athletes. The idea of the GoPro, a small camera that can strap onto a surfer’s wrist, had been born.

​The couple returned to California and began gathering the funds required to act on Woodman’s idea. One method they used was selling over 100 Balinese belts, which are fashionable belts made from beads and shells, out the back of a 1974 VW Camper.

With the help of Woodman’s savings and a nearly $250,000 loan from his father, combined with the belt earnings, Woodman founded GoPro Inc (initially Woodman Labs, Inc.) in 2002. He would eventually marry Jill in 2012.

​The Products

The first GoPro looked a bit different from today’s models. Introduced in 2004, the HERO was a 35mm camera that could strap onto the user’s wrist. It could take photos in a maximum depth of five meters of water.

For comparison, the HERO6 is a similar size and was available to the public in 2017. Although, one can use them 10 meters underwater, take videos and photos, connect to Wi-Fi and more. 

Below is a timeline tracing the evolution of various GoPro camera models:

  • 2002: GoPro is founded
  • 2004: HERO 35mm camera
  • 2006: Digital HERO
  • 2011: HERO2
  • 2012: HERO3
  • 2013: HERO3+
  • 2014: HERO4
  • 2015: HERO+LCD, HERO+
  • 2016: Karma Drone, HERO5
  • 2017: HERO6, Fusion
  • 2018: HERO 2018 Edition

Throughout the years, the company has discontinued. The 2018 lineup of GoPro cameras includes the HERO6, HERO5, HERO 2018 and Fusion.

These cameras have come a long way from the original 35mm camera used with a wrist strap.

​For example, the HERO6 is capable of 4K60 video and incorporates technologies including voice activation, compatibility with the Karma drone and a touchscreen display. GoPro’s most recent int roduction, the Fusion, takes recording action footage to a whole new level by allowing users to create entirely spherical videos.

GoPro Mounts

The transition from a wrist strap to more modern mounting methods occurred in 2006 when Woodman decided to try to mount his GoPro to the roll bar of a car. This experiment led the GoPro team towards researching and developing alternative mounting methods for the camera.

The resulting accessories made it possible for GoPro to break out of the surfing world and into other sports hemispheres. For example, it is possible to mount a GoPro on ski poles and helmets. Ultrarunners can use a chest mount.

The cameras can link with the Karma drone and capture a birds-eye-view of a city. With these options, plus many more, there are a plethora of stories that the GoPro can capture.

​Worldwide Distribution

​The GoPro idea was born in Australia, was further developed in California and then earned further support in Pennsylvania when Woodman proposed his concept and prototype at an Inventor Search competition for the home-shopping network QVC in 2004.

The ensuing exposure provided by the media and tech shows down the road began the worldwide distribution of the GoPro, with the first major order in 2004 coming from a Japanese distributor.

In 2018, GoPro cameras are found in over 100 countries. The company is headquartered in San Mateo, California and has affiliate offices in other American states, such as Florida, along with other countries, including France and Hong Kong. The technology company originally had three employees.

After recent layoffs that are explained later in this article, the current number of employees in 2018 is 963. While this number is not as high as in previous years, it still shows impressive growth from the original founding of the company. 

However, building a company is more than releasing a new product and distributing it all over the world. Since the original inception of the idea in 2002, GoPro has gradually developed both a product and a community.


​Building a Community


​Telling the stories of cliff jumps and alpine train rides brings people together. Watching inspiring videos of rescue missions and insightful videos of different cultures shapes the way people at home view the surrounding world.

GoPro recognized the power of media and used it to develop a strong community base that is still prevalent today.

​Engaging With Media

​An intentional engagement with the media began in 2014. Previously, GoPro let the cameras and the resulting photos and videos speak for themselves.

Becoming a media company in 2014 put a greater emphasis on the role of GoPro as a distributor of footage. The idea was that the company would use footage from consumers as a form of advertising. 

As a media company, GoPro had to establish an entire software team to create the most effective and well-developed channels possible. The company began streaming channels through Xbox and Virgin America Airlines along with a very popular YouTube Channel.

GoPro Awards

​Additionally, the company continued utilizing footage from users to develop a channel on their business website. GoPro introduced the GoPro Awards and GoPro for a Cause in 2015 as ways to continue gathering, storing and sharing the incredible footage cameras captured.

With the GoPro Awards, any user can upload a photo or video at any point in the year as long as the footage comes from a GoPro device. Top videos and pictures win social media spotlights, GoPro gear or a cash prize. 

For example, there is a daily video and photo of the day posted online. There is usually a variety of content themes in which users apply, ranging from something specific such as ‘India: Living Local’ to a broad category like ‘Anything Awesome.’

Raising Awareness

GoPro for a Cause connects to the philanthropic side of the technology company. The idea behind this video submission page is to allow GoPro videos to raise awareness about important causes all over the world. Viewers have the option to donate to featured causes after reading a story of support.

These causes may address social or environmental issues. For example, a current cause featured on the GoPro website is an organization called ‘Skate Like a Girl’ with a mission to strengthen communities through skateboarding.

​Channeling videos through the media and highlighting exceptional footage on its home website continues to establish a strong base of GoPro viewers and followers. Currently, over 5.5 million individuals subscribe to the GoPro YouTube channel, and over 13.7 million accounts follow GoPro on Instagram.

It is apparent that since the initial founding of the company in 2002, GoPro has built both a company and a community.

​GoPro Community Members

Countless people all over the world use GoPro cameras. The camera's original design was for everyday adventurers to capture professional quality footage, hence the name ‘GoPro.’

However, many professional athletes have used GoPro cameras on a regular basis. A few of these include the following:

  • Valentino Rossi: Italian motorcycle road racer
  • Shaun White: Snowboarder and skateboarder
  • Chris Davenport: Skier
  • Jamie Anderson: Snowboarder
  • Mark Healey: Surfer and spear-fisher
  • Hilary Knight: Ice hockey player

Along with these professionals, GoPro videos cover the entire spectrum of adventure activities. The cameras have captured encounters with great white sharks, summiting Mount Everest, jumping with wingsuits, kayaking through glaciers, proposing in a plane and more. GoPro has created more than a camera.

The company created a way to share inspiring, exciting and nerve-racking videos on the world wide web and it continues to do so today.


​Building a Future


The growth and development of GoPro, Inc. is an incredible success story, as a man who studied visual arts and liked to surf became a reputable figure in the business world.

However, the company has faced some challenges in the past few years as new product introductions did not go as well as anticipated. 

Many people wonder about the future of GoPro, and in what direction the company will choose to go in the future.

​Past Challenges

​The financial history of GoPro is an important component of the company's story. The end of 2015 marked the beginning of a rough period for GoPro, as the company lost money until 2017’s third quarter.

One reason for this is the Karma drone, a product that GoPro introduced in 2016. The Karma is compatible with three camera models and can fly up to 3,000 meters at speeds of 35 mph. 

Unpredictably, the first drones malfunctioned on a major scale, dropping from the sky and posing serious risks for anyone who happened to get hit by one.

The company issued a three-month-long recall before putting it back on the market in 2017. This had serious financial consequences for GoPro.

​Managing pricing and consumer preferences have also been a challenge faced by the company. Recent model releases were initially priced too high, leading to a lack of sales by consumers who wanted an affordable, entry-level GoPro option.

2017 was a challenging year for GoPro, with numerous budget cuts and the company laying off nearly 500 employees. The company needs to recover from three years of poor market performance if it is going to maintain a strong standing in the future.

​Future Developments

​It appears the company has learned some lessons between 2015-2017. In one effort to get GoPro back on its feet and maintain a strong presence in the market, the company introduced a new product in 2018.

This version of the HERO provides the entry-level, reasonably priced and high-quality producing camera that consumers looked for and did not find in the HERO4. 

Two additional products from 2017, the HERO6 and the Fusion, are examples of how the company continues to offer advanced technological products despite some financial hiccups in previous years.

​Company shares continued dropping in early 2018, indicating that the company still has some work to do if it is going to have a successful year. Along with introducing the previously mentioned products, GoPro also plans to increase service offerings, such as improved warranties and expanded cloud storage space. Time will tell if these efforts are enough to get the company on its feet again.

One of the greatest challenges GoPro faces is competing with lower-cost cameras and the ever-expanding usage of smartphones to record and share adventure footage. It will be interesting to see how the company will evolve, and if it can find a profitable foothold in the modern market.


​Be Part of GoPro’s Story


GoPro has a deep history of new ideas, whether it is the initial idea of making a camera that can strap onto the wrist of a surfer or providing a way for a consumer to capture a wild idea on video, such as kayaking down a sand dune. There is no denying the recent challenges faced by the company. But there is also no denying the community of action-seekers and story-tellers the company has fostered.

​It is possible for you to engage with the GoPro company and community as well. All it takes is an adventurous spirit and a GoPro. Read on to learn about the most up-to-date GoPro cameras offered on the modern market.

​Current GoPro Cameras

The Fusion

The Fusion is one of the exciting developments by GoPro. It is the first camera designed by the company that can capture 360-degree footage and audio, with the option of 5K resolution as well. This high resolution makes the Fusion stand out from the other currently offered models. The size dimensions are larger than the standard GoPro, which means it is not compatible with the Karma drone. 

The HERO6

The HERO6 provides an impressive level of photo and video quality. The burst level is 30 fps, and video quality can reach 4K60. Additionally, the camera is waterproof up to 10 meters, higher than the Fusion, which can only reach 5 meters. This model stores high-quality images on a GP1 chip, captures HDR quality, is voice activated and has a QuikStories feature linking the GoPro with your phone. 

The HERO5

The HERO5 is a step below the HERO6 with regards to additional features. However, it also has a burst level of 30 fps and the potential for 4K60 video quality. Like other GoPro options, there are auto low light, exposure control and manual feature control options. It can reach a water depth of 10 meters and is also compatible with the Karma drone. Unlike the HERO6, it does not use a GP1 chip and cannot be turned on by voice. 

The HERO

The HERO is the 2018 version of an entry-level GoPro camera. Photo and video quality are lower, with a burst level of 10 fps and potential video quality of 1080p60. It can reach depths of 10 meters. The main differences between the HERO and the HERO6 are that the HERO is not compatible with the Karma drone, it does not use a GP1 chip and it does not create a separate audio wave file track when recording. As the simplest option currently offered in the 2018 GoPro lineup.

​GoPro Software

All of the camera models can work with the GoPro app, which was originally called Capture. The most recent evolution of the app includes the feature QuikStories, which automatically transfers footage from a GoPro to your phone while shaping it into an easy-to-share video. Before the GoPro app, users had to connect the device to a computer, upload files and then share them. With the app, users can easily post photos and videos to social media, perform basic editing techniques and back up data on a cloud.

​GoPro also offers the apps Passenger, GoPro Fusion Studio and Quik Desktop. Passenger is used to view and control footage from the Karma drone. GoPro Fusion Studio is specifically for editing footage gathered with the Fusion camera. Quik Desktop is the computer version of the phone app and allows for more intentional, professional video editing.


History of GoPro Camera: Final Thoughts


The history of GoPro cameras stretches from the first HERO introduced in 2004 to the most recent camera in 2018. Numerous camera models released between these dates contributed to the growth of a company focused on telling stories.

As the company grew, so grew the inspiring and action-packed GoPro community. The question remains as to how the company will flex and change to fit future market demands.

Experience GoPro today by visiting one of the company’s channels and watching some of the most recently posted footage.