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GoPro Files For IPO (techcrunch.com)
175 points by adidash on Feb 7, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 118 comments

GoPro's an interesting company. Conventional wisdom would say that the market for dedicated mobile cameras is getting eaten up by general-purpose mobile devices. Think of what happened to Flip. And, yet, they seem to be thriving.

Anyway: They seem to have a good product and they definitely have been great at creating/expanding a new and distinct niche for mobile photography -- one not easily serviced by iPhones and other mobile devices.

So: Congrats!

Funny anecdote re: good product:

I fly gliders recreationally. Last fall one of the guys in the club called me up and asked if I'd lost my GoPro. I hadn't, but from his description, it was probably the camera of a guy I flew a two-seater with in a competition a year earlier.

Turns out that the camera had been returned by a hiker who found it while hiking on a mountain, approximately 10 kilometers from the airfield. Looking at the last footage in the camera, you could see three guys using a suction cup holder to attach the camera on the outside body of the glider. The video continued as the glider launched, and for approximately ten minutes of flight. Then, the camera detatched from the airplane. As it went tumbling down, there were a couple of frames where the glider was captured from below, rapidly disappearing into the sky.

The camera landed on the mountain, where it remained through the winter. A year later, a guy hiking there found it and returned it, in working order, to the glider club.

Does GoPro do any kind of video stabilization? I am a bit worried about getting one of these and having a video that's completely unusable (I am thinking about taking it for some trail running).

Also, are things like Gear Pro and other knock-offs worth anything?

I don't think so (I have a Hero 3+ Silver). Lots of folks use post-processing software to stabilize it or you can look at a stabilizing mechanism to mount the GoPro on like (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/48127572/easygimbal-an-...)

EasyGimbal looks fine but pretty expensive; the Tarot, which is designed for quadcopters, can be fitted on pretty much anything, is of super high build quality and costs around $200:


It's only 2D whereas the EasyGimbal is 3D but I don't think pan stabilization is much useful, except maybe when filming with the camera in hand. When attached to something (a bike, a motorbike, etc.) 2D stab is more than enough.

There is plenty of postprocessing you can do that really cleans up the video. Even Youtube these days offers automatic video stabilization.

Now, if you start doing dive rolls on your trail runs the postprocessing may not be enough, but it's been plenty for my bicycling & dirtbiking.

The wide lens helps, since vibrations will shake the subject proportionally less distance across the frame. It's not stabilization, but it's not as bad as you'd think from shaking a normal camera.

How you mount it is the biggest influence on shake. I think it's pretty decent, especially if you head mount it. [1] is a good sample.

I've never heard of the Gear Pro. Some of the Go Pro alternative are pretty decent, though. The Garmin Vibe has some nice features, but the form factor might not be great for running (no chest mount). Take a look at [2] for some things to think about (read the comments, too)

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_iU8rRGBQE

[2] http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/12/garmin-depth-review.html

Yes the GoPro has stabilization, but it can result in undesirable footage when shaking heavily under bright light (search for "jello effect").

One way to correct the jello effect is to add ND filters before the lens to reduce the amount of light and therefore slow the shutter (since you can't otherwise control the aperture). There are filter holders that can be screwed on top of the box, or attached directly to the lens when the GoPro isn't in its box.

The other way is to re-stablilize in post-processing; results can be good to very good depending on the source footage. Heavy shaking and big jello can't really be corrected, but slow shake can be made to disappear completely.

This was shot with a Tarot gimbal attached to a bike, and no software stabilization: http://footage.shutterstock.com/clip-5460407.html

This was also shot with a gimbal but (re-)stabilized in post: http://footage.shutterstock.com/clip-5317121.html

both with a GoPro 3 Black Ed.

Because of the "fish-eye" effect of the lens, it is hard to use stabilization plugins for editing purposes. In After Effects CS6 by Adobe they have a plugin called "Warp Stabilizer" that is pretty good but again it's not perfect.

I wonder why they (and any lens manufacturer for that matter) don't provide a radial distortion correction parameters.

Googling yields some advice on how to correct the distortion, but nobody seems to provide exact settings. I wonder how much a demand is there for a one-click rectification app for any fisheye.

Also, are things like Gear Pro and other knock-offs worth anything?

There are loads of other "action cameras" and they're all quite good. I have a Drift Innovation and am quite happy with it.

I can't answer your question but I think iMovie added one click video stabilisation a few years ago that's pretty decent if you're on a Mac.


I think the wisdom is "the market for dedicated general-purpose mobile cameras is getting eaten up by general-purpose mobile devices", and Flip didn't have a compelling niche.

On the other hand, GoPro cameras have a reputation for usability in some very extreme situations, use cases outside of the smartphone story (if you are going to mount a device on your helmet or elsewhere, you better hope that it can withstand the elements and a crash or two

Flip's compelling niche was that it was easy to get the pictures off the camera. But as easy as an integrated USB plug is to use, wireless is even easier.

I've been very pleased with mine. Not just the durability but how it handles jitter and rapid lighting changes, two things that are very important for filming moving things while on the move.

GoPro's are most useful in situations you wouldn't want your phone near (mounted on a helmet, attached to the outside of a car, underwater, etc). They tie in with phones though so you see the current video from your camera on your phone (handy if the mount is in an awkward spot).

It is clearly a nitch in the market place but is it large enough to sustain and grow in a publicly traded company? That is the question.

Mobile phones are only going to start taking bigger bites out of the market. And sure we may not mount our phones on submarines or airplane wings like we could a GoPro but apart from the extreme cases, our phones will be much more convenient than another piece of hardware right?

Right now GoPros seem to be mostly in the extreme sports/recreation community. When I mention them to friends & family I often hear "what's a gopro?".

I think that there are a ton of use cases in markets they haven't broken into, or among more casual users. If every urban biker in the western world bought one, that's a $BN company right there.

As they get cheaper/better there are things like dashboard cams that you wouldn't use your phone for, so I think they have plenty of market left to grow into.

So we agree that there is opportunity for some growth in the POV camera marketplace but disagree in how much there really is.

You mention "every urban biker in the western world" but unless GoPro figures out someway to make it necessary for every biker in the western world to have a camera attached to their bike how on earth is this a realistic goal to shoot for? That is like saying Redbull is shooting to get their product into the hands of every athlete...it's a silly assumption.

People didn't put lights on their bikes at night until about 15 years ago when low-weight, bright LEDs became cheap and ubiquitous.

Any city cyclist will tell you about all the close calls and accidents they've had, so it's just a matter of making a camera that's rugged and cheap enough to meet the demand. GoPro has rugged down, now they just need to come down in price and maybe up in usability.

I think it's different from the Red Bull example because red bull doesn't really offer anything that tons of cheap competitors don't already offer, and with taste being what it is there's no 'default' drink to capture the whole market.

If gopro just became 'the dash-cam' company, and any time you bought a new bike or car it was a $50 add-on at the register, I think they'd clean house.

Of course we're a ways from a stabilized HD camera being an impulse buy, but they're probably the best positioned company to get there. Then they just have to fight commoditization, which is a nice problem to have.

> People didn't put lights on their bikes at night until about 15 years ago when low-weight, bright LEDs became cheap and ubiquitous

Perhaps this is different in the US, but in the UK people were definitely putting lights on their bikes way before then, because if you didn't you were liable to get stopped by the police. Having a light on your bike in the UK has been the law for at least 30 years.

A light, maybe. Now it's not uncommon for a frequent night biker or city bike commuter to have several very visible LEDs on their bike and gear -- a far step up from the dim battery powered lights of 30 years ago.

I think it is a law in the US as well? Pretty hard to corner the market though with a bike light...

I'm not sure about "necessary" but dash cams make even more sense for bikers. The default response for police in car-bike traffic accidents is to assume the biker did something stupid and let the driver go or worse, issue a ticket to the biker without any evidence at all.

See: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/19284/it-must-have-...

I bring up Redbull because there you have a company that was able to profit more-so from it's brand than their product. Their brand created more value in the company than the product they were making.

GoPro has a similar mission as Redbull I think, therefore they would be wise to follow the lead Redbull has already proven successful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkRVJNmWmT8 - this happened to me on Wednesday night (filmed with a Drift Ghost, a better camera for motorcycle helmets though).

Capturing stuff like this is worth it.

Living in Seattle, almost every bicycle commuter I know has a GoPro, and they are fanatical about their love for it.

My sister works at a small ski resort in our are and all the kids these days want a gopro for skiing and snowboarding.

I think they could break into science per my comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7197879. It'd be like the inverse of Nalgene.

Pfft. A sports shoe company? How could that ever be a big enough market to support a public company?[1][2]

A company like Garmin has made an art of growing revenues in markets that are supposed to be eaten by mobile phones. For example, their fitness division (which is basically GPS Cycling Computers and Watches) made $83 million in Q2 2013[3]. Everything Garmin bike computers do you can get an iPhone app to do instead. But people (including me) buy them because they are SO MUCH BETTER than using a phone.

Incidentally, Garmin introduced their GoPro competitor at the end of 2013.

Also worth noting there is no reason GoPro has to stay limited to cameras.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike,_Inc.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_boom_of_the_1970s

[3] http://www.bicycleretailer.com/industry-news/2013/10/30/garm...

The GoPro is normally used in situation where some preparation was already done (e.g. register for some activity, prepared your gear, trained for the occasion) and the "best camera is the one you have with you" adage doesn't fit as much.

Putting you mobile phone in some hardened case and using it as a camera would be OK, but you might want to keep your camera running while you use your phone for other purposes (GPS, actually calling someone, listen to music...), and you wouldn't want to lose your phone in the middle of a mountain.

I think one thing you're missing is that GoPro cameras are basically a consumable product for many higher end filmmakers. Look at the X-Games. Every athlete had one in at least one place on their body. They usually don't even have the waterproof housing on them, because they don't care if they break them.

Yes, the average consumer is only going to buy one every few years, but there are business that will buy hundreds or thousands.

I think there are other places they could move the business also. They could do other kinds of sensors, heads up displays, lots of things that aren't necessarily cameras.

It is clearly a nitch in the market place but is it large enough to sustain and grow in a publicly traded company? That is the question.

Certainly! We're talking about people who are very interested in expensive hobbies (like skiing, snowboarding, motorbiking), these people are very used to spending a lot of money on their hobby. Combine that with the innate human desire to want to record/photo/share our lives, and the market for "allowing people to record their expensive hobbies" is very lucrative.

Or, as mobile phones become more advanced, more ubiquitous, and more "general use," the niche markets might get larger.

Perhaps this is anecdotal, but the launch of the HERO3 Black was personally very anticipated.

It was shipped to my house a few days after launch, as I had pre-ordered, but the camera just does not last beyond half an hour when recording 720p@120fps. This seems a bit... silly, but I was willing to chalk it up to launch day jitters. Nothing was fixed as time went on.

I have emailed support regularly, to the tune of once per week for the month and have received zero response. I wanted to just ask about why my battery dies so quickly and what would they suggest.


For a company with such a great product, they sure make a champion of their product and once-happy customer feel worthless.

Sorry for getting off track, it just bothers me still.

I had a similar experience. I purchased a GoPro to use for a trip to Mexico. I had heard great stories about how durable and reliable they were from friends. So I didn't hesitate to buy one on Amazon.

Long story short all the footage from my vacation were unusable as many of the videos and pictures were corrupted/distorted which was annoying. Tried customer support but weren't able to fix the issue so I ended up returning it.

FWIW the framerate has a big impact on the battery life for me (Hero3 Black). 30 fps = longer batter life. That said the battery life on the Hero3's isn't great, especially in the cold. I have the battery backpack thing, and a few spare internal batteries for this reason. The upside is the video quality, and low light performance, is WAY better than previous generations. So PITA but worth it for me.

I thought Flip was popular, they were bought by Cisco and summarily cancelled.

Flip was cancelled just ahead of nearly every smartphone having capability to record comparable quality video. It was a smart move by Cisco.

It seems less likely that phones will be able to supercede GoPro in the same way, since you'd never want to subject such an important device to the physical situations that you would a GoPro.

The lens issue is also non-trivial. For a general purpose camera (i.e. smartphone), you wouldn't want a wide angle lens like you would for PoV video, and making a smartphone's camera lens interchangeable for a small segment of its customers probably isn't happening broadly if ever.

They were popular. Cisco bought them at their height. Shortly after the purchase Cisco saw the cliff.

There's no mobile phone camera that's even close to GoPro's video quality. I can't put a phone on my helmet and go skiing or windsurfing, it will simply not survive.

There's also the issue of wind noise. GoPro hasn't completely solved wind noise, but they are leagues ahead of what a cell phone is going to achieve at 65mph.

I would call "windsurfing" and "skiing" extreme cases of POV usage. The normal application of POV cams could easily be filled by a more practical mobile device such as a cell phone.

Why is a multi-function device without any real buttons or durability a more practical mobile device? I sure wouldn't want to put my phone on the outside of my car or on my quadcopter or try and use its capacitive touch screen underwater.

My understanding is that they have difficulty with customer retention. Many people are drawn in by the amazing videos on youtube only to find

1) Video editing is tedious and often greatly underestimated.

2) Their product usability is wanting. I have both a v1 and v2, I still have to read the manual to figure out what the different modes are.

3) Battery life has been disappointing and I understand the v3 has issues too.

I've heard first hand evidence from insiders that loyal customer retention is a big challenge. Growing out of the niche they're in is hard to envisage.

I think the biggest killer for me has been battery life.

Video editing isn't that bad if you know what you're doing or willing to put in time to learn.

There aren't that many different modes, you can pick most of it up in 15 minutes of looking at the manual (which is probably worth doing with anything you're spending $300+ for.

The battery life though - it's a bummer to be out in the middle of nowhere & expecting to capture some awesome footage to come home & realize that your camera crapped out halfway through.

Battery life is indeed bad. My advice:

- Turn off WiFi. This drains battery faster than just having the camera record everything.

- Take only "snippets". This makes editing easier later anyways, since it's usually more convenient to browse through smaller files than through one big long video over an hour. I try to keep every snippet < 1 minute. Most of the time, only 3-5 seconds of one snippet end up in my final video to give it a fast pace anyways.

- Keep a spare battery pack.

But I have to admit that this won't help you a lot, if you're in difficult situations where you can't easily change batteries (under water for long periods of time, climbing somewhere, flying, driving).

I've been thinking about buy one - do you mind giving some details about approximately how long I can expect the battery to last in each of your scenarios above? Thanks.

1:30 seems to be about right, could be less though. I have a GoPro 3 Black Edition and a second battery back. Recently I went snowboarding, took about 2-3 hours of video footage in total (as mentioned above in 150 small files) and cut everything down to a 2 minute video.

So, part of "extending" battery life is knowing when it makes sense to record a scene and when not.

I can still fully recommend the GoPro. It's a fun camera and what I like in particular is that you can point it directly into the sun and still see everything. It has an excellent white balance for amateur video makers like myself.

And of course the 60/120fps in 1080p/720p.

Time to flat, when recoding, from [1]:

Garmin VIRB Elite #1: 2:21 (Marketed: 3:00)

Garmin VIRB Elite #2: 2:24 (Marketed: 3:00)

Garmin VIRB Regular: 2:36 (Marketed: 2:36)

JVC GC-XA2: 1hr 51m (Marketed: 1:48)

GoPro Hero3 Black: 1:29 (Marketed: 1:30)

Sony AS-30: 2:11 (Marketed: 2:40)

Pyle HD PSCHD60WT: 2:54 (Marketed: “More than 2 hours”)

My Hero3 Black lasts well under an hour with WiFi enabled. I believe the Hero3+ is better - they claim 30% better because of software optimisation and a bigger battery.

I don't find recoding resolution makes a big difference.

[1] http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/12/garmin-depth-review.html

Oh yeah turn off wifi. I have a Drift Innovation Ghost, and have the on board screen. I get about 4 hour of full time recording out of mine. My older Drift HD used to last about 8 hours of recording, which was enough for a full day motorbiking. Now I carry a spare battery and swap out at lunch time.

"Video editing isn't that bad if you know what you're doing or willing to put in time to learn."

You're thinking like a developer (o; End users see the cool videos and don't see the learning curve needed to produce slick videos. As soon as they're hit with that curve they realise it's not that simple. iMovie goes a long way but it's often a very foreign ui/workflow.

"There aren't that many different modes" not there are not, but the UI on v1 & v2 camera is simply confusing. Trust me.

The new(ish) version of the free GoPro Mac/Windows editing software is pretty decent[1]. It has templates & music and transitions, and my 7 year old made some pretty decent videos.

I agree the whole process needs improvement though.

[1] http://gopro.com/software-app/gopro-studio-edit-software

Yup, this was me. Bought the Hero Black and returned it two weeks later, for all of the reasons you cited.

Nothing to do with the IPO but I found the Hero3 both hard to learn and operate. Maybe I'm spoiled by user friendly tech, but it seems the compromises in usability to achieve durability severely limits the ability for an average person to use the product. The tiny control interface and cryptic symbols required much time in the tiny but dense instruction booklet.

I was only helping a family member (as the resident family geek) but was left with the impression that it would take a solid weekend (or three) to fully understand the options and how best to get the footage you want.

To contrast I have a "tough" Lumix digital camera which is water, drop and generally abuse resistant that is drop dead easy to use, records in high-def and also has a large LCD and dedicated record/photo buttons that make operating it easy. And I'm not talking about normal recording conditions, I've used both extensively on the trail, in the cold (winters in Maine) and mounted on various vehicles and body parts.

I do think the reasoning behind many of these inconveniences is toughness but the net result is a very difficult product.


To be fair, I always thought the Contour was miles ahead in form factor and usability, it's a shame that they weren't able to continue to compete with GoPro.

Edit: a couple of links:



I actually bought a Contour before I ended up selling it to get a GoPro 3 Black. The video quality just wasn't comparable at all. The laser level was a great concept, but the WiFi viewfinder is far easier to use, despite sucking down battery like there's no tomorrow.

There were 3 things I really liked on the Contour, though: the standard tripod screw on the bottom (that's an extra accessory on the GoPro), the battery life was far better, and the model I had was able to withstand a few feet of water without a big bulky case. (Snorkeling/swimming okay, SCUBA not.)

I liked my Lumix a lot (it got stolen in Canada, of all places) and even went swimming in the Mediterranean with it, but it was still a general purpose point-and-shoot. GoPros generally have wide-angle lenses and I don't doubt they're even more durable. It makes sense to me to make a product that's as tough as possible, just to make sure they're not going head-to-head with Panasonic et al.

Connect to the camera using wifi and you can control it with a much more user friendly app (from Gopro) on your phone.

Connecting to it via wifi without the benefit of the paper manual is itself a WTF-worthy process. Even with the manual it was a PITA for me, I can't imagine what it's like for a non-techie.

It may have changed since you last tried, but isn't it just turn on wifi, join wifi on your phone, open app?

No, because you have to choose between Wi-Fi "phone mode", Wi-Fi "remote control mode" and off[1]. Navigating the menus on the camera is pretty annoying - I always get mixed up which button is back and which is "Ok".

[1] http://gopro.com/support/articles/how-to-pair-your-hero3-wi-...

I have used my GoPro Hero3 with my iPhone over wifi several times and I have never heard of or encountered these multiple wifi modes you speak of.

You'd be lucky to get any decent battery life out of it too. (The GoPro.)

I surprised to hear that you had so much trouble. I think my GoPro is at least as easy to use and navigate menus as my Canon point and shoot camera, which has a bunch of buttons and a full color LCD.

1. I heard somewhere that GoPro hasn't produced any video for it's own marketing material - they just leverage user generated content. (genius)

2. This company is going to get really interesting when it starts to compete with YT/Vimeo in specific verticals for video publishing. (http://gopro.com/channel)

1) They do. I have friends that work for GoPro. They fly all around the world shooting video for ads. I am extremely jealous of their jobs.

Interesting what causes a successful company to file an IPO?

I understand why some do it, they've reached a point where they need funding to scale and already have many private investors. Maybe thats not even right.

When I start a company one day I dont think I will ever want to take in public. It seems like you loose too much control over where you are going. Maybe its because I am a build what our customer want type person and not a lets return value to our shareholder by delivering a cheaper product type. Maybe that doesnt make sense.

To my understanding, a company IPO's for one or both of two reasons:

1) To allow initial investors (be they the founder or venture capitol) to cash out

2) To generate capital for the next stage of the business's growth & development

3) They have enough shareholders that it is effectively forced upon them by the SEC.

If you want to stay private forever and always have full founder control, then you should never offer stock based compensation (maybe profit sharing instead) or have plan to cash out that stock based compensation in the future, that you communicate when you hire people.

It depends how you structure the plan. Publix is an example of a privately controlled* company that has wide employee stock ownership.

*the stock is held by a small group of owners and many employees. Transfers are limited by contract and by securities laws. Because of the large number of shareholders, the company does have to file periodic reports with the SEC but the shares are not listed on an exchange and not available to the public. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publix#Publix_stock

"then you should never offer stock based compensation"

unfortunately most of your funding will be from VC companies, and it's unlikely they will give you money under a profit sharing arrangement b/c it does follow their IPO->cash out workflow.

The current system is flawed and self perpetuating

Good question. Part of the answer is probably selection bias: bad companies don't get to that stage (although I suppose that is quite debatable when they are in an arena where people can't tell the difference between good and bad).

Not reported here, but they recently (i.e. a few months ago) brought their software consultants (General Things: http://generalthings.com/) in-house. General Things did all the work behind the GoPro website, and I always thought it was a bit odd that a company so big had almost completely outsourced web dev. Once they acquired General Things, an IPO seemed a foregone conclusion. Congrats all!

The Russians have been using GoPros during the last couple of spacewalks they did (to install the earth observation cameras on the ISS). They have the regular helmet cams, but also a GoPro around their wrist in a little white box.

I'm not sure if they're 'stock' GoPro cameras. The temperature extremes are nothing to sniff at.

But... there is no temperature in space: http://www.universetoday.com/77070/how-cold-is-space/

> But... there is no temperature in space ...

That's misleading (and the linked article offers no support for your claim). A vacuum has no temperature, but objects in space certainly do have a temperature and all the normal thermodynamic rules apply.

If what you said were true, you could safely approach the sun as long as you didn't come into contact with it. But that's not true.

In the neighborhood of the non-planet Pluto, the median temperature is just 33 Kelvins.

In the extremes of space, between the stars, the temperature of an object falls to the CMB (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background), about 2.7 Kelvins.

The linked article makes the same points.

Of course. The way I think about it is this: when you go for a space walk, first you are inside the airlock where the temperature is about our usual 293 K or so. Now, you suck all the air out and are in a vacuum. You are insulated, except if you are touching another object, and the heat you are losing through radiating it. So the question is: given a GoPro camera strapped to your wrist, and say, a 30 minute space walk, what temperature will it be once you are back in the airlock and before you pump all the air back in? My hunch is that it will be pretty darn high. After all, it is connected to your wrist, and the inside of your space suite must be at least above 273 K for you to be able to do anything.

> So the question is: given a GoPro camera strapped to your wrist, and say, a 30 minute space walk, what temperature will it be once you are back in the airlock and before you pump all the air back in? My hunch is that it will be pretty darn high.

Think about this. One of a spacesuit's key features is that it uses insulation to protect the astronaut from the temperature of space (meaning those objects, however distant, that exchange heat energy with the spacesuit via radiation). This means the spacesuit's exterior will quickly rise or fall to the temperature of its environment. That, in turn, means the GoPro camera will also rise or fall to the temperature extremes of its environment.

So, if the astronaut is located in a shadowed environment -- let's say on the moon -- the spacesuit exterior and the GoPro camera will fall close to the temperature of space, or the temperature of the shadowed areas of the moon:


Quote: "Previous findings had identified the Moon as the coldest place in the Solar System, but the latest results push the temperature even lower, all the way to 26 kelvin ..."

The above refers to the shadowed areas of the moon. Pretty damn cold. :)

But -- if the astronaut walks around in the sunlit parts of the moon, the temperature will be very high. My point is the astronaut's temperature inside the suit isn't the issue, and the more efficient the suit, the less its external temperature reflects that of its occupant.

So the GoPro camera would have to tolerate a very wide temperature range.

> After all, it is connected to your wrist, and the inside of your space suite must be at least above 273 K for you to be able to do anything.

A spacesuit that externally radiated any significant energy at room temperature would be a very poor design indeed. And the GoPro camera isn't attached to the astronaut's wrist, it's attached to the spacesuit wrist area.

I understand what you are saying about things like the Moon, Pluto, etc. If a bury a thermometer on the moon, and dig it up 5 minutes later, it will be very cold.

But we are talking about a space walk here. Let's phrase the question this way: if I have a 1 kg mass of plastic and metal in some proportion and I throw it out of the airlock with the initial temperature of 293 K, what will its temperature be 30 minutes later if it was (a) in the shadow and (b) in the sunlight? This is a different case than being in contact with a hot or cold satellite or planet. It's a rate problem. If we assume a near-perfect vacuum, the only heat going in and out is via radiation. So the question is, how fast does a hunk of metal/plastic radiate heat at 293 K.

Now, the radiation heat transfer out of a black body will be: q = σ T^4 A, where q is the Watts of heat transferred, σ is the Boltzman constant, T is the temperature in Kelvin, and A is the surface area. Roughly: 5.6703e-8 x 293 x 0.1 for a GoPro camera. That's 1.66e-6 Watts, or 1.66 microwatts. That's a pretty damn low transfer rate: we are talking about roughly 3 mJ of energy lost over 30 minutes.

Now, the delta T here is equal to Q/(mC), where Q is our 0.003 Joules, m is the mass, 0.135 kilograms, and C is the specific heat. The specific heat is tricky but let's assume this thing is made out of copper: 390 J/(K kg). That gives us a delta T of, drum roll please, 5.7e-5 degrees. So assuming we are in the shade and are not touching cold objects, the GoPro will come back at the exact temperature it left after a 30 minute space walk.

We can of course figure out what it will be in the sun, where I expect it'll heat up quite a bit, which is probably the more dangerous thing for a piece of equipment. The equations are nearly the same.

> Let's phrase the question this way: if I have a 1 kg mass of plastic and metal in some proportion and I throw it out of the airlock with the initial temperature of 293 K, what will its temperature be 30 minutes later if it was (a) in the shadow and (b) in the sunlight?

To answer, I have to say first that radiation is a much more efficient way to transfer heat energy than convection, and in some contexts it rivals conduction. If it's in shadow, exposed to space and not the sun, the object in your thought experiment will radiate most of its heat energy rather quickly, and will ultimately fall to a temperature near the CMB, i.e. 2.7 Kelvins.

> Now, the radiation heat transfer out of a black body will be: q = σ T^4 A, where q is the Watts of heat transferred, σ is the Boltzman constant, T is the temperature in Kelvin, and A is the surface area. Roughly: 5.6703e-8 x 293 x 0.1 for a GoPro camera. That's 1.66e-6 Watts.

In your calculation, you failed to take the fourth power of the temperature.


j = σ T^4 (j = radiated power watts)

= 5.67 * 10^−8 * 295^4 Watts from a "unit square", presumably a square meter, or about 430 watts.

Remember that three-dimensional objects lose their heat energy more quickly as they become smaller in size (because their dimensions decrease proportional to the square of their dimensions, but their volume declines as the cube). This means the GoPro camera, initially at room temperature, exposed to space would radiate away its heat energy very quickly.

The linked article suggests that a person (at body temperature and in a normal earthly environment) radiates away a net power of about 100 watts. Remember about this figure that is is a net (radiation minus absorption) for a person of about 2 square meters surface area at room temperature.

If we calculate the example of a person exposed to space (in shadow) directly without any heat inflow, the radiated power would be about 860 watts.

If a person were shaped like a GoPro camera (with the same density) and we scaled it down proportionally, the rate of heat loss would increase (even though the power would decrease) for reasons given above. That consumer camera would not be long for this world -- in fact, it would probably expire faster than the hapless human in the above example.

> So assuming we are in the shade and are not touching cold objects, the GoPro will come back at the exact temperature it left after a 30 minute space walk.

Do take the fourth power of temperature. See how that turns out. :)

Ha! You are totally right. Yes, at 430 Watts we are talking about substantial heat transfer. Without getting into the calculus, if we approximate that the heat transfer will stay constant for a short period of time, then in the first second, we will lose roughly 8.2 degrees. Yup, you are correct, the thing will be damn cold.

Believe me, I'm not gloating. I can't count the number of times I've drawn a bogus conclusion after missing a critical calculation step.

Nice write up. On a similar note I've always wondered why they say the planet mercury is cold at night. Wouldn't it take weeks for the surface to cool down since its in a vacuum?

> Wouldn't it take weeks for the surface to cool down since its in a vacuum?

The fact that Mercury has no atmosphere doesn't decrease the rate of heat radiation, it increases it (compared to a planet with an atmosphere). Your question appears to relate to the efficiency of vacuum storage bottles, but that's a different case with a different logic.

For a vacuum thermos, the presence of the vacuum represents a less efficient heat conduction medium than air (or foam), which uses conduction and convection to transfer energy. The difference in temperature between the contents and the environment also plays a part.

But for a planet, no atmosphere means radiation operates at maximum efficiency, and radiation is a very efficient energy transfer method, especially when there's a large temperature difference between the object and space.

Even on earth (with an atmosphere), radiation directly to space turns out to be more efficient than atmospheric conduction and convection, such that objects on the surface can fall well below air temperature if the sky is clear of clouds.

It's not uncommon for earth's surface to drop below air temperature overnight, which can produce such effects as "radiation fog" near the ground, caused by condensation of water vapor in the air cooled by the surface.

It's common to believe that on earth, air conduction/convection is the majority heat transfer method and radiation is less effective, but in fact it's the other way around.

Thanks. So I'm still not clear why a vacuum in a thermos is superior then?

> So I'm still not clear why a vacuum in a thermos is superior then?

It's not just the vacuum, but a combination of a vacuum plus a reflective coating to deal with the effectiveness of radiation as a heat transmission method. In this way a vacuum thermos addresses all three heat conduction methods -- conduction, convection and radiation. More here:


This doesn't mean a vacuum thermos won't lose heat, it only means the rate of heat loss as a function of time is greatly reduced.

This is a big win for hardware startups! Showing that being a cash cow and having sustainable growth is signaling the market that the startup hardware revolution is upon us.

Completely agree which makes it such an awesome IPO. I'm really blown away by the popularity of their cameras. They seem like a really creative bunch so it'll be cool to see what's next.

GoPro is like Apple for fans; screw the price; I'm getting one anyways!

As of whether there are better solutions or not, I cannot attest. I will however tell you that a friend of mine working at BestBuy (Florida) told me they sell those like crazy. It is normal to sell five cameras a week from all major brands combined. It is normal to sell five of GoPros a day!

Their product seem top notch and going around reviews, they mostly seem to confirm. I am not sure, however what will they do with a buffer or cash? Their approach is we wont screw people over X amount of years and introduce new things into our devices; we go all the way in in version 1. That's goPro. Where will they go from here, not sure...

GoPro is like Apple for fans; screw the price; I'm getting one anyways!

Actually GoPro (& related action cameras) customers are probably very interested in expensive sports/hobbies. Many motorcyclists have one, and if you're interested in that you'll be spending a lot of money on the bike, the equipement, servicing, insurance, etc. So what's €300 for a camera?

Next, GoPro announces Google Glass competitor for recording video and taking pictures.

Although this is sarcastic you do bring up a good point. GoPro is a maker of a single product - the GoPro POV camera - just as RedBull is the maker of a single product - the wing-inducing energy drink. How much longer will GoPro be able to survive in the increasing competitive market of solely POV cameras, especially with opportunities for mobile to eat up a share of the market.

By filing for an IPO Nick Woodman must believe that the GoPro brand is worth as much as the product they make itself. That is the only justification I can think of for filing. How many iterations of the camera can they make and for how much longer is this sustainable without some sort of a pivot?

There's actually a company exactly trying to fill that niche called Recon



Jet Recon looks very promising, but professional cyclists will probably not consider it until they iterate on the design and improve peripheral vision. Proper cycling glasses have unobstructed peripheral vision on the left/bottom/right, and sometimes even top. This is where Google glass slightly edges the Recon Jet, but the Recon Jet looks to have far more stabilization for sporting than the Google Glass.

Beyond the fact that they have an amazing product, a good chunk of their success is due to phenomenal user-generated content. I can't think of any other recent company that has better user-generated marketing than GoPro.

Yep, so good 5 years ago I built a site to try and catalog the best ones! http://goproheroes.com

I've seen a lot of advertising around GoPro lately, even on TV shows that normally have nothing to do with it. Now it's explained.

The latest spot with Red Bulls Stratos made me think: where do you want to go from there? We've seen those things can handle a jump from space. You can't do that. Nobody can do that anymore. This is the ultimate thing. Everything else we've seen already. All those crazy base jumps, flight suits, whatever.

There is nothing more to get there.

How do you sell a new product based on this??

They have been just iterating over basically the same product for a while. I don't think they will introduce any "new" product, just upgraded version with higher resolution, more FPS, etc.

Tangent: Why does everything have autoplay videos these days? It's like we're going back to the terrible days of geocities.

wow he is a fellow UCSD alumni, respect.

" featuresBack to SchoolA Full Ride to Fulfill DreamsThe Best Ride of Our LivesGame ChangerBeyond the Brew

The Best Ride of Our Lives

Nick Woodman still remembers the day he decided to become a surfer. He was eight years old, standing in his friend Brian’s bedroom. Brian’s family had a house in Hawaii, and his walls in California were plastered with tearouts from Surfer magazine depicting palm trees, beautiful people, and the curling turquoise waves of the North Shore. 

“I didn’t even know that world existed,” recalls Woodman, Muir ’97, who grew up surrounded by tech startups in the wealthy Silicon Valley community of Atherton. “But from then on, I knew I wanted to live in that world.” 

Thirty years later, Woodman is still in Silicon Valley, but he’s tan and fit and has a cheeky freckled grin that suggests he’s living the good life. He should be grinning. He’s the founder and CEO of GoPro—one of the world’s fastest growing camera companies, now worth an estimated $2.25 billion. He’s created a device that helps people capture and share their passions from the North Shore and way beyond. 

It started as a durable wrist-mounted camera for surfers to record their feats in the lineup—effectively helping them “go pro.” Now the palm-size cameras, which sell from $200 to $400, can be fastened to helmets, handlebars, ski poles, and, yes, surfboards to document experiences both ordinary and extraordinary. Last October, the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner—equipped with five GoPros—jumped from 24 miles above the earth’s surface, breaking the world record for the highest and fastest freefall, and broadcasting it live for all to see. A few months later, the cameras were streaming 30-foot waves at the Mavericks Invitational surf contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and a few days after that, snowboard slides and backside airs at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. For GoPro, this is every-day R&D. "

I'm watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies right now and a lot of athletes are walking in filming with GoPros- in past years it's been iPhones and other cell phones. They probably got them in goody bags, but still it's a pretty good sign.

Anyone know when the GoPro Hero4 is expected? What is GoPro's release cycle?

Now it makes sense why they were all up on 60 Minutes last November.

I love GoPros and I wish the company well.

My favorite GoPro video is this:


Skip to 1 minute, 10 seconds if it doesn't place you there automatically.

ipo's keep making my rent go higher. Can't afford a house.

They put cameras on the helmets? good enough to file an IPO...

They put cameras everywhere and sell a ton of them for quite a bit of money. Makes a lot more sense than losing money shoving 140 characters around the globe...

Check out their YouTube channel for examples of what their customers do with their cameras. It's pretty amazing.


We mount them in various locations on our aircraft during tests. GoPros have nice experimental science applications when you need a rugged camera with an integrated stable mount.

That's a pretty silly comment.

They're selling a somewhat specialized camera to a huge potential market, making billions of dollars.

It's a far more promising business plan than 99% of the startups I see mentioned on HN.

Really? The company might exceed $1 billion in revenue for all of 2013 in a Bloomberg TV interview last October.


This is a fairly ignorant comment. GoPro cameras are used in almost all sports or where weather hardened cameras are required.

They are hugely popular with a TON of different segments of sports. Everything from paintball to hunting to hang gliding to snowboarding to fly fishing. All have amazing user generated content from the gopro.

And their market is limited to people who go outside and move about. Who here would'a thunk it?

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