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A Deeper Look at GoPro



August 23, 2014 – Comments (1) | RELATED TICKERS: GPRO , SNE , GRMN

I have been very intrigued by GoPro and spent some time over the past few weeks researching the company in more depth. I thought I would share my thoughts and findings here for those interested. 

GoPro, Inc. (NASDAQ: GPRO) 
Sector: Consumer Cyclical 

Business in One Sentence 
GoPro designs wearable and mountable high definition cameras and provides a platform for users to manage and share their video content. 

Value Proposition 
GoPro’s lightweight HD devices (“capture devices”) and content management/sharing platform -- through GoPro Studio and the GoPro App -- enables users to capture, edit, manage, and share high quality video of just about any activity. 

Competitive Strategy and Advantage 
GoPro has been developing wearable technology devices “before they were cool” -- the first GoPro product developed by Nick Woodman in 2004 was a film camera that could conveniently be strapped to one’s wrist, allowing users to easily snap a photo of memorable moments (including those underwater) on the go. GoPro’s camera design evolved into what is today an incredibly versatile wearable/mountable HD video device (powered by Ambarella’s chips). 

GoPro’s underlying focus is to eliminate the pain points of capturing, managing, creating, and sharing video content. Put in other words: GoPro wants it to be a frictionless process for anyone to capture great video footage, easily (and quickly) edit that footage, and share that footage with others. As we will see below, GoPro’s skyrocketing user engagement numbers suggest that the company is making significant progress creating a seamless content creation process for its users. 

GoPro’s strategy starts with and hinges on the development of new capture devices, with specific innovations in mind for technologies such as sensor and digital signal processing and custom lens, audio, battery, and accessory design. GoPro relies on providing small, versatile, and powerful cameras that can capture video in high definition. 

The second component of GoPro’s strategy is developing and simplifying its content management, editing, and sharing solutions for users. GoPro acquired General Things, a web and software development firm, in October 2013, bringing on new insights into software to assist this strategy. This content editing and sharing capability helps establish GoPro as a platform and network for its users, rather than only providing a commodity product. GoPro Studio was installed by more than 850,000 users in the second quarter of 2014, during which time the GoPro App was also downloaded 1.6 million unique times.

“How do you get millions of people on your platform sharing compelling content and giving you credit for it? You build GoPro.” -- Nick Woodman

The most recent strategic development is the creation of GoPro Network, a media platform to share both original content (such as mini-documentaries filmed with GoPro devices) and the best content uploaded and shared by GoPro users. In early 2014 GoPro entered into an agreement with Microsoft to develop and launch the GoPro Channel on Xbox Live, and also became a platform partner with Virgin America. 

Founder and CEO Nick Woodman says GoPro aims to “leverage our customers as the world's largest production force.” Truly a Rule Breaker vision, in my eyes. This “production force” includes amateurs (the vast majority of us) as well as professionals. There is even a GoPro Film School, launched in 2013, which teaches people how to shoot, edit, direct, and effectively gain exposure (through social media outlets) with their GoPro videos. 

“Our customers are the best storytellers in the world. And we have this phenomenal opportunity to build our media business on top of that, and leverage our customers as the world's largest production force.” -- Nick Woodman 

The GoPro channel launched on Xbox Live on July 22, 2014, and had over 500,000 downloads in less than one month, with an average engagement time of nearly 30 minutes in the U.S. GoPro is empowering hundreds of thousands of “content creators”, branching out its platform to enable easy editing and sharing for GoPro users, and is now developing its social media and overall media platform to further spread the content (all of which serves as an advertisement for GoPro cameras, thus reinforcing the cycle of content creation with GoPro). Keep in mind that GoPro cameras are already used in more than 70 TV shows. 

Not only does GoPro provide superb versatile cameras that allow people to capture special moments in high resolution (whether it be skydiving, a POV of a pelican’s first flight, a toddler’s first steps, and everything in between), GoPro also provides a platform that enables quick and easy content management, editing, and sharing capabilities. An average of 20,000 videos per day are exported by users on GoPro Studio, and more than 6,000 videos uploaded to YouTube each day are tagged GoPro.

“We’re a hardware company but we’re turning more into a content company. The camera is just the tool to get to content…. Most people don’t view GoPro as a media company but we’re quickly changing what media is.” -- Adam Dornbusch, GoPro’s head of content distribution

What’s most impressive to me is how engaged people are with GoPro’s content. In the most recent quarter the number of GoPro videos published on YouTube increased 160% year-over-year, views on YouTube increased 200%, and video minutes watched on YouTube increased 270%. GoPro is the #1 brand channel on YouTube, and there is little doubt that the company’s content is engaging viewers. This is a gold mine for both licensing and advertising opportunities -- not to mention free publicity for GoPro -- which makes the company’s expansion into the GoPro Network all the more appealing as an avenue for future growth. 

In June 2014 GoPro brought on Tony Bates as president and its board of directors. Bates, who most recently served as CEO of Skype at Microsoft and has also served on the boards on YouTube and LoveFilm, will head up efforts to scale GoPro’s media operations. Other notable board members include Kenneth Goldman, CFO of Yahoo, who has also served on the boards of companies including Ambarella and Infinera. Venture capitalist Peter Gotcher, who serves on the boards of Dolby Laboratories (where he is chairman) and Pandora Media, joined GoPro’s board in May 2014. In short, GoPro is not lacking in leadership talent. 

“We’re in the business of enabling great content, but we’re taking it to a level that’s never been done before, where we are enabling the entire life cycle of the content from the initial hardware all the way through the distribution thereof.” -- Nick Woodman 

I don’t see any clear second in this space when it comes to GoPro’s media strategy -- nothing quite like it has been done, and it will be difficult for any other camcorder companies (Sony, Garmin, Polaroid, etc.) or media channels to replicate the community and content of GoPro. If GoPro can build and scale this media platform, I think we will have a solid long-term market outperformer on our hands.

I initially perceived GoPro as a company developing and selling a commoditized product (video cameras), but GoPro is much more than that. GoPro is as much a content and media company as it is a hardware company. Founder Nick Woodman, who is 38 years old and owns 46.7% (56.59 million shares) of all shares outstanding, has a clear passion for GoPro and carrying out the company’s vision. Woodman is an extraordinary entrepreneur and exactly the passionate leader I like to see at the helm of a young business. 

The holistic vision for GoPro as a hardware and content company -- backed by the leadership of Woodman -- will be, in my opinion, exceedingly difficult for other players to replicate. 

The Financials 
Over the past four quarters GoPro brought in $1.03 billion in sales with a net income of $33.8 million. Revenue grew at a compounded annual rate of 148.2% over the past three years through 2013, including 87.4% growth in 2013. In the most recent quarter, total revenue grew 38.1% year-over-year to $244.6 million. As of the first quarter of 2014, 53% of sales came from outside of the U.S. (up from 35% in 2011).

Top line growth is always nice to see, but what especially impresses me about GoPro is the company's free cash flow production. GoPro produced $13.2 million in free cash flow in 2011, but that number has ballooned to $89.4 million over the past four quarters ending June 30, 2014. This free cash flow production has helped GoPro maintain a healthy balance sheet of $104.9 million in cash with $41.4 in debt, making for a net cash position of $63.5 million. (This does not include the $200.8 million in cash raised by GoPro from its IPO.) In other words, GoPro is producing sufficient cash to finance product development as well as expansion into its content and media segments. 

GoPro is plowing money into product development, with R&D expenses increasing 121% year-over-year in the first two quarters of 2014 to $63.4 million. Of GoPro’s 800 or so employees, approximately 300 are focused solely on product development. Of those 300, roughly 200 are focused specifically on the development of hardware (e.g. the design, look, and functionality of the video cameras). The other 100 are focused on software development, including content management and platform-based software (initiatives relating to the GoPro Studio, GoPro App, and GoPro Network). Per its prospectus, GoPro has 42 issued patents with 72 patent applications pending in the U.S. and 15 issued patents and 12 patent applications pending outside the U.S. 

GoPro is focused on innovation and is already producing free cash flow to fuel this innovation, although it means that the bottom line will likely see sporadic performance in the shorter-term. This means we will probably see higher multiples (and more volatility) with the stock, which doesn’t bother me. GoPro is quickly growing under the guidance of a passionate, dedicated, and invested leader, and long-term results are what I am most interested in. Nick Woodman and company are very much focused on working toward a long-term vision, and at this point it appears the company has the financial backing to help make this happen. 

GoPro by the Numbers 
** GoPro’s products are sold in over 100 countries and more than 25,000 retail stores.

** GoPro’s HERO cameras controlled 45% of the U.S. camcorder market (by dollars) in 2013. 

** GoPro’s accessories represented a 4% share of the U.S. camera accessory market (by dollars) in 2013. 

** Sold 8.5 million HD cameras since 2009 (3.8 million in 2013). 

** Average of 20,000 videos per day exported by users on GoPro Studio, which has been downloaded more than 5 million times in total. 

** Over 6,000 videos uploaded to YouTube each day are tagged GoPro. 

** GoPro has over 7.6 million “likes” on Facebook, 2.7 million followers on Instagram, 1.1 million followers on Twitter, and 2 million subscribers (568 million video views) on YouTube. 

GoPro is currently valued at $5.5 billion, trading at a P/S ratio of 5.3 by my calculations. The P/E ratio sits at 137, but keep in mind that this reflects the company’s investments into R&D (which reduces the bottom line). GoPro is trading at a P/FCF ratio of approximately 87. The stock isn’t cheap, and much is riding on the company’s future performance. GoPro’s lofty valuation in the short-term doesn’t concern me to a great degree, although investors today must recognize that the stock will be volatile and the company will have to perform very well in the coming years to deliver market-beating results to investors. 

Over the next five years, I believe GoPro can expand its sales at an average pace of 25% annually. This would lead to total sales of more than $3 billion in 2019. Slap a P/S ratio of 3 on that and you have a market value around $9 billion, slightly less than a double from today’s levels (not including potential share dilution, which we will have to watch closely). With a P/S of 5 we reach a value of $15 billion in 5 years, well more than a double from today’s prices. 

There is no other company with the offerings or strategy of GoPro, so it will take some time to figure out how to best analyze the company from a valuation perspective compared to its peers. As a reference point, Garmin’s market cap currently stands at $11 billion with a P/S of 4. Netflix has a market cap of $28.3 billion with a P/S of 5.8. GoPro is growing significantly faster than both companies and will likely command a premium valuation so long as it continues growing at these levels. 

** GoPro’s strategy to become a media channel is still in its infancy and won’t generate revenue in 2014. If this move goes kaput, GoPro’s growth prospects and strategy will be seriously dented. 

** GoPro is partially operating in a commodity business, despite branching out into content management and media channels. Cameras as a whole are becoming smaller and more powerful, potentially diminishing how differentiated GoPro’s physical cameras can really be. My feeling is that this is played up by many analysts to be a greater risk than it really is (I think people misunderstand how differentiated GoPro’s offerings really are), but it remains a potential risk nonetheless. 

** GoPro currently affirms that mobile technology and smartphones complement its products, but the company’s products could face stronger competition from smart watches and other wearable technologies. With GoPro’s focus on product development -- both from the hardware and software perspective -- I am confident the company can keep the performance of its products at the front of the pack, thus enabling its users to continue generating the incredible content that fuels the GoPro Network. 

** GoPro’s strategy and vision are undoubtedly tied to Nick Woodman. If Woodman left the company anytime soon or got hit by a bus, I would have to seriously reconsider the long-term thesis of GoPro as an investment. 

Foolish Bottom Line 
One of the advantages of GoPro’s strategy, according to Woodman, is the company’s laser-focus on its vision, whereas other competitors like Sony and Garmin are competing in a variety of electronics markets (not just video cameras). GoPro is focused on providing the best hardware and software to help its users tell their stories, and in turn share that content with others. This makes for compelling and engaging content and the growing network that is GoPro. Woodman describes this strategy as a “differentiated, defensible, and exciting business opportunity,” and I am inclined to degree. This will be a challenging model for anyone to successfully replicate. 

GoPro enables people to self-document themselves engaged in their interests and passions. Even with the impressive engagement numbers highlighted above, the percentage of GoPro content actually uploaded and shared by its users is still in the single digits. GoPro’s opportunity going forward is three-pronged: 

1. Continue developing world-class cameras capable of capturing high definition footage in a versatile way. 

2. Refine and improve the software end of the business, making it a quick and painless process for users to edit and share GoPro footage through GoPro Studio or the GoPro App (ideally increasing the percentage of GoPro footage that is uploaded and shared by users). 

3. Further leverage the content created by GoPro users worldwide through GoPro’s media channel, original productions, and social media networks. 

I am yet to find another company pursuing a similar strategy to GoPro, and I believe GoPro’s vision and competitive moat are much stronger than many give the company credit for. Nick Woodman and GoPro have come a long way in ten years, but the company’s global growth story is just getting started.

I started a position in my portfolio a couple weeks back and look forward to following the company’s progress. Like I said, this will probably be a very volatile stock (especially following the IPO) but I like the long-term prospects of the business (and the stock) the more I learn about the company. I’ll be following along for the ride. 


David K 

P.S. My four favorite GoPro videos at the moment:

GoPro: Fireworks From A Drone: 

GoPro: Highest Road in the World (mini documentary) -

GoPro: Epic Roof Jump - 

Superman With a GoPro: 

P.P.S. For more on the story of Nick Woodman and GoPro: 

GoPro: Our Story - 

How GoPro Made A Billionaire - 

A Conversation with GoPro's Nick Woodman -

1 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On September 17, 2014 at 5:30 PM, OKwarrior (44.87) wrote:

We’re a hardware company but we’re turning more into a content company.

I think this is the most interesting line in the article. I think of the GoPro camera as a commodity, much like cell phones and phablets - easy to copy and produce at a cheaper price, meaning lower margins in the longer term. The real question is, "Does GoPro have a sustainable edge in the content market." Maybe they do, maybe not.

The better way to play GoPro might be to buy AMBA. They make the chips that power the GoPro, but they have other customers.

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