NEW YORK — GoPro isn’t exactly a household name, but anyone who’s spent a little time on YouTube is surely familiar with the thousands of snowboarding, surfing, and even skateboarding baby videos that its cameras produce.
GoPro Inc., which makes a small line of high-definition video cameras geared toward extreme sports athletes, is experiencing a rare moment in the spotlight. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company is a common sight at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, showing up in everything from the opening ceremony to test runs of ski and snowboarding courses. It currently sponsors the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and champion snowboarder Shaun White.
And now GoPro is preparing to enter the high-profile area of public companies. Earlier this month, it announced plans for an initial public offering of common stock.
The company’s cameras, which sell for between $200 and $400, are small, light, water resistant and extremely durable. The highest-end GoPro model shoots video in ultra-high-definition, or 4K. With a variety of related accessories such as helmet attachments, bike mounts and harnesses, the cameras can be mounted to everything from a bike helmet to the side of a half pipe.
Those attributes make GoPro a favorite of extreme athletes. The company was founded more than a decade ago by avid surfer and chief executive Nicholas Woodman. The cameras’ most popular use: the ultimate selfie, a one-of-a-kind first-person point of view, even if the person starring in the video happens to be hang-gliding off a cliff or parachuting from a giant helium balloon.
Through its sponsorships, GoPro gets one-of-a-kind content. Its YouTube channel has about 1.7 million subscribers and features hundreds of eye-popping videos starring everyday users and famous people like GoPro-sponsored surfing legend Kelly Slater.
Citing legal restrictions related to the IPO, company officials declined to comment for this story.
One challenge for GoPro as a public company will be to broaden the appeal of its cameras. Extreme sports athletes — and people who think they are — are GoPro’s main consumers at the moment.
There is potential, however, to attract more consumers given the current consumer craze surrounding wearable technologies, says Whitney Fishman, senior director of innovation and consumer technology at media agency MEC.
It’s also possible, Fishman believes, that the cameras could find commercial use in fields such as medicine.
Jason Stein, founder and president of New York social media agency Laundry Service, argues that GoPro’s true value lies not in its camera, but in the exclusive content the gadgets creates. He predicts that as a result of its online notoriety, GoPro will eventually become more of a media company than a manufacturer.