GoPro has climbed mountaintops and dived to ocean bottoms. Now it's headed somewhere only slightly tamer: Wall Street.
The maker of wearable sports cameras, loved by mountain climbers, divers, surfers and other extreme sports fans, is expected to sell its shares publicly for the first time and begin trading on the Nasdaq stock market Thursday. It plans to raise more than $400-million U.S. in its initial public offering, valuing the whole company at about $3-billion.
The company is entering a busy time for initial public offerings, with seven companies expected to make their debut on the same day. It's the third busiest week for IPOs since 2000, according to IPO investment adviser Renaissance Capital.
But GoPro is likely to stand out. Its branded cameras have created a new market, selling electronics and accessories to people who want to take video of themselves jumping out of a plane or riding a skateboard – especially first-person videos that capture the experience as they saw it.
"They seem to have dominated this business," said Kathleen Smith, co-founder of Renaissance Capital, which manages a fund that tracks recent IPOs.
GoPro wants to go beyond cameras. It has hinted that it wants to be a media company, too, by making money off the videos created by the cameras. However, it hasn't laid out concrete plans to do that yet.
The company, which has its headquarters in San Mateo, California, was founded in 2004 by GoPro's CEO and Chairman Nicholas Woodman. Its first product was a waterproof camera that used film. In 2006, it launched its first digital camera. Three years later it began selling a high-definition camera. The cameras are light, small and waterproof. They have other uses besides sports. TV producers use them to film in areas where big professional cameras can't go.
Its list of competitors is short, but growing. Consumer electronics companies Garmin, Samsung and Sony have all entered the market.
GoPro had the bestselling camcorder last year, according to government paperwork filed by the company. Since launching its high-definition camera in 2009, it has sold 8.5 million of them, including 3.8 million in 2013. Its cameras are sold in more than 25,000 stores and cost between $200 and $400.
It also sells accessories such as cases, battery packs and mounts that help users attach their cameras to surfboards, helmets or their wrists. It also has a free app and software that lets users edit, store and publish their videos to their social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Additional growth may come from the wild videos its cameras create.
"We believe GoPro is well-positioned to become the first media company whose content is captured exclusively using its own hardware," the company said in its government filing.
But Wall Street analysts are ignoring that for now. "They haven't monetized it yet," said Smith.
It may one day sell ads for its videos, speculated Chris Chute, an analyst at technology market research firm IDC. But its value is the cameras.
"It's one of the bright spots in consumer electronics," said Chute.
The company has been able to sell cameras even as people prefer to use their smartphones to take pictures and video, Chute said.
GoPro did not respond to an interview request for this story.
GoPro's revenue jumped to $985.7-million in 2013, nearly double what it brought in the year before.
It plans to raise up to $427-million in its IPO Thursday, offering 17.8 million shares for between $21 per share and $24 per share. It plans to use the money to pay down debt. The stock will trade on the Nasdaq stock exchange under ticker symbol "GPRO."