GoPro valuation set near $3 billion ahead of first day of trading

 

The chief executive of action-camera maker GoPro rang the bell on the Nasdaq floor Thursday to commemorate the company's market debut. The public offering marks a new era for the firm that has enabled thousands of hours of "holy cow" footage -- videos  perfect for the share-everything era of YouTube and selfies.

GoPro shares, trading with the ticker "GPRO,"  began trading at $28.65, around 20 percent above its set IPO price of $24.

You may not have heard of GoPro, which was valued just shy of $3 billion ahead of its debut, but you've certainly seen something shot on one of the firm's cameras. That first-person view of Felix Baumgartner's fall to earth? GoPro. Those pelicans learning to fly? GoPro.  That one of the fireman saving a kitten? Well, you get the idea.

The debut caps off an astonishing rise for chief executive Nicholas Woodman, who came up with the idea of a mini mountable, wearable camera so that he could take photos while surfing. In the 12 years since, Woodman's company has steadily gained popularity with action aficionados who've uploaded more than 2.5 years of GoPro footage to YouTube in 2013 alone.

The shockproof, waterproof cameras stand out from the pack because they can take a serious beating but still shoot high-quality video. With those two attributes, the firm has  found a dedicated base of consumers who carry them everywhere to capture outrageous footage. The cameras can be mounted on your body or other objects, such as the end of a surfboard or a long stick, to shoot  up-close -- often first-person -- footage.  Athletes, filmmakers and consumers have been particularly enthusiastic about the cameras because they allow them to shoot things that could never be captured before without big-budget camera equipment.

Analysts have been upbeat about GoPro, saying that its devoted base and the appeal of the GoPro lifestyle can help insulate it against big camera makers such as Sony, who are starting to horn in on the action market. But there have been some concerns that the company won't have a broad enough appeal to sustain sales over the long term.

GoPro acknowledged those concerns in its initial public offering filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, outlining ambitions to extend beyond a device company and move into the media world. The firm has struck deals with Microsoft's Xbox Live Platform and Virgin America to showcase compelling footage from its users, which GoPro often buys the rights to and produces for its own promotions. The company has also made several sponsorship agreements with notable surfers, skiiers and snowboarders such as Olympian Shaun White, to promote its brand.

 

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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