GoPro's IPO and what it means for the underdog

GoPro was founded by a surfer who believed in a different form factor for camera technology. They came a long way since the initial duck taped prototypes. All the way to Wall Street.

So why didn't the other billion dollar companies think of it? 
The real question I'd like to explore in this post is Why didn't Sony, LG, or any other large IDM or consumer electronics company commercialize the idea before? 

Understanding customers is really really tough, regardless of how awesome a technology might be. 
The quick answer is that the rate at which we understand customer desires and the rate at which we can build technologies don't necessarily coincide. In simpler terms, every time a new technology comes out, we never really know how to shape it in a way that the customer wants. It's really hard to understand a customer, especially for a large company that's trying to innovate. 

Right off the top of my head, I can think of several technologies that missed the mark when it came to how they were shaped for customers. 

  • Cake Mix - Right from the get go of its invention, Instant Cake Mix sales started declining because consumers wanted to feel like they were doing real customization for guests. With the advent of colored icing combinations and marketing, the product was relaunched. Once many  varieties of cakes could be achieved, cake mix sales ramped back up. 
  • Segway - Some say the Segway was a complete flop, despite the hype. But it turns out another invention that utilizes similar technology may come to fruition. Check out Boosted Boards. People wanted the electric motor, but in a skateboard, not a standing, rolling, gyroscoping stick. Props to Dean Kamen, either way. We're huge fans of consummate creators. 
  • Flip Camera - The Flip camera and its following models looked like a rising star in 2006 and the years after. Many millions of units were sold. In 2009 CISCO bought the Flip company for $590 Million. Though not much new that was actually relevant to the consumer was released from there on. In 2011 FLIP was affectively shut down. 

I worked for 6 months at the retail level to understand the customer and Mobile industry. 
When I started Juicies, my story wasn't so simple. While I was always a big fan of small electronics, especially mobile phones, I knew absolutely nothing about the world of selling consumer electronics, let alone manufacturing. I spent the better part of 6 months getting acquainted with the industry by working as a manager for an Apple Premium Reseller in Hawaii. Why? So I could understand why they think while shopping. What do they need. What is the problem we will be solving.

Am I Crazy or are they?
My friends and family thought I was crazy when I quit the only job I ever had, but they've always been supportive. Once I got my foot in the door with tech via the first Kickstarter project in 2011 and had enough technical competency to do some damage, I teamed up with an old friend from Germany, Hannes Reichelt. Since we were young, we had worked on stuff together, so the chemistry was perfect. We just kept at it every day and night.

The Verdict
The simple answer is that companies struggle to embrace crazy ideas because they're busy satisfying existing demand. Large organizations like google acquire more than one small company every month. While they buy the technology and the patents, often the real pay off thru the investment comes from the team that comes along and then starts working for the large organization. At Juicies we ended up joining the Blue Startups Accelerator to get a grip on scaling up and learning how to navigate the wild seas of Angel & VC investments. So far we DID not take on any other investments. Except for SOSV, which runs multiple startup programs. We are a proud part of the HAX/SOSV family.

Starting a startup is hard. Building a solid company that's set out to last for decades is even harder. Let's see where GoPro stands in 2020 or even 2025.



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