Miniature HD action camera the GoPro has made its company founder and chief executive Nick Woodman a multi-billionaire.

Woodman has sold ten million of the HD devices since 2009 and has made so much money from the invention’s IPO that last week he was able to set up a new charity with 5.8 millon shares worth around $450m to be run by himself and his wife Jill.

Investors weren’t too impressed when this move sent GoPro stock plummeting recently, but Woodman insists that the company has just got started.

While a smart phone might be the world’s best reactive capture device – easy to pull out to record an event that’s happening in front of you – a  GoPro is the world’s best proactive capture device, used by millions to take with them to record their passions and adventures.

A former surfer, Silicon valley entrepreneur Woodman developed the device when he realised that sports enthusiasts wanted decent kit on which to record their activities but nothing existed on the market.

Woodman was recently quoted commenting: “I got really lucky. I had an idea nobody else had in a seemingly very developed industry of digital cameras. So I had this grace period to slowly develop this concept.”

“At the time, I was scared. I thought that at any moment I was going to see the competition steamrolling me. But nobody was paying attention. In the early years, I would say GoPro’s products were not that impressive. But it’s all there was. Then, along the way, we were able to attract better and better engineering talent.”

The original cameras he developed were point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras which mounted to the user’s wrist.

The product has since evolved into a compact digital camera that supports WiFi, can be remotely controlled, has waterproof housing, records to a micro SD card, and at around $200-$400 is affordable to the average action sports enthusiast.

In 2004, he made his first big sale when a Japanese company ordered 100 cameras at a sports show. Thereafter, sales doubled every year and in 2012, GoPro sold 2.3 million cameras.

In December 2012, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn purchased 8.88% of the company for $200 million which set the market value of the company at $2.25 billion making Woodman, who owned the majority of the stock, a billionaire.

Since then GoPro has faced down competition from lower priced competitors, and from more established camera brands. They have failed because GoPro is not so much about the product but the content it enables, Woodman explained in a recent interview.

“We have millions of people around the world capturing themselves and sharing that content with others.”

Woodman added: “I’m a big believer that when you’re pursuing your passions, your best ideas come to you. Your passions are a bit like your fingerprints: Everybody has them; everybody’s are different. One’s passions may just be a guidebook to one’s life.”

Where next for GoPro?

He went on to talk about the future. “I now have a new passion in life, my growing family. I’ve got three little boys.”

“One of my favourite ways to use a GoPro is taking it with us to the diner on Saturday mornings to document pancake breakfasts. But the challenge is, my family is trapped on stacks of SD cards on my desk.”

“This has become a big inspiration: How do we help our customers manage all this content—take 30 minutes captured at the park or on the mountain, compress it into the one or two minutes other people actually want to watch, then share it? That’s really the next phase for GoPro.”

David Wood

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