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Now Comes the Hard Part for GoPro

By Travis Hoium - Sep 23, 2015 at 11:20AM

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Where does GoPro see growth next?

GoPro's (GPRO 0.75%) ride to the top of the action sports camera heap has been nothing but remarkable. A genre that didn't exist before Nick Woodman strapped a camera to a race car has taken the company to new heights and led to a $4.3 billion market cap for the company.

But being a public company is about more than what you've done in the past; it's about what you're going to do in the future. GoPro has built a dominant position in the action sports market, but with competitors closing in, and investors hungry for a more diverse business, the question is: What's next?

Drones are in GoPro's sights. Source: DJI.

The next phase for GoPro
It's not certain exactly what GoPro has in store next. And for a company with the world at its fingertips, that might be OK. 

GoPro has put a lot of effort into its editing software, trying to make itself into more of a content than hardware company. But even the content business is predicated on selling hardware, so it's not really a driver of new sales for the company.

Drones are a market GoPro has played in for a long time, but that's been through other drone makers like DJI. This summer, Woodman announced that GoPro would indeed be making a quadcopter drone, to the delight of customers and investors.  

Accessories are an important part of GoPro's business. 

Again, the devil is in the details for GoPro's drone business. DJI will reportedly generate $1 billion in sales this year and has a market cap nearly twice that of GoPro's. Companies like 3D Robotics, Parrot, and UDI are also putting a lot of effort into drones, not to mention a slew of start-ups. If GoPro can't make a drone that has equivalent capabilities, or better, for an attractive price, it could be a dud in the drone market. To make matters worse, companies like DJI are starting to build their own cameras into drones, so failing in the drone market could mean lost sales for the Hero camera line.  

The other growth initiative Woodman sees as groundbreaking is virtual reality. When the company bought virtual reality company Kolor earlier this year, it signaled a new market for GoPro -- one that could take years to fully develop.  

GoPro's virtual reality plans are far from complete, but the company has launched a product called Odyssey, a mount with 16 cameras that can be stitched together by Koror to create a virtual reality view. Maybe that's the future of photography and action sports? Or maybe it's a market GoPro will have a tough time entering? 

GoPro's true legacy
GoPro's success with the Hero line of cameras is nothing short of astounding. But the hard part for the company will be turning that success into the next growth opportunity. Maybe that's in software, maybe it's in drones, and maybe it's in virtual reality.

I wouldn't put anything past Woodman, who has proven to be an effective CEO, despite his eccentric tendencies. Now he has to prove that he's built a company with innovation in its DNA. That's easier said than done.

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