After Losing Big on Karma Drone Double Down, What's Next for GoPro?
Stop me if you have heard this one before, GoPro's investment in drones isn't working out, so they are cutting jobs.
This time last year, the highly-anticipated Karma drone literally took a nosedive as mid-air malfunctions left 200 employees without a job. Just a few months later, after the Q1 earnings for 2017, 270 more jobs were cut running a total of 570 in only five months. Come August, and Q2 was not awful which, for a struggling company, was finally good news. They increased sales by 34-percent YoY and were "building momentum" according to founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman.
The Karma drone was slated to hit retail, the HERO5 Black overcame production woes, and a reshuffle of their entertainment divisions (read completely shut down) shifted the portfolio closer to the 2014 powerhouse of days past.
They stumbled out of the gate only to kill their entire drone division stating that the "extremely competitive aerial market" was to blame. Their earnings report took a preliminary look at fourth quarter results, ending the fourth quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $247 million, up $50 million over the third quarter of 2017. They credit holiday price drops on the HERO5 for their bounce back.
However, despite reaching the second position in the market, the Karma drone will cease production and signal a complete exit from the market for GoPro. Here is what GoPro said of their fruitless endeavor:
Although Karma reached the #2 market position in its price band in 2017, the product faces margin challenges in an extremely competitive aerial market. Furthermore, a hostile regulatory environment in Europe and the United States will likely reduce the total addressable market in the years ahead. These factors make the aerial market untenable and GoProwill exit the market after selling its remaining Karma inventory. GoPro will continue to provide service and support to Karma customers.
This, of course, underscored the 200 or 300 employees the GoPro would lay off, marking a fourth round and total headcount of about 800, the tens of millions of dollars in restructuring, and the new $1 salary for Woodman, that once sat closer to seven figures.
GoPro Future: The Good, The Bad, The Hail Mary
Let's for a second look at the few options GoPro has left. Obviously, GoPro will sell, bankrupt, or bounce back. Truthfully, there aren't any directions left for GoPro, but let's dissect each with a little more detail.
Firstly, and most exciting, the sell. It should be noted that the action cam market is chock full of contenders. The main downfall for GoPro was not generating enough money for a premium action camera, presumably because options are plentiful and cheaper. Realistically, if you wanted to test the waters with an action cam would you buy one at $699 or $99? A bit of hyperbole as GoPro offers other reasonably priced cameras, but they are also addressing a prosumer action camera market that may not exist.
Who would buy? Well, it's an unfavorable bet. GoPro is good at making indestructible cameras and maybe not much else. Who wants damage resistant cameras? Drone manufacturers. Hypothetically, GoPro could get swallowed up by a drone manufacturer for their technologies. Another long shot might be a security manufacturer looking to buy physical assets to create better hardware. Is it possible a VR/AR company picks up their equipment for a venture we could never imagine? However, best case scenario is a significant retailer picks them up as a house brand and muscles out competition while floating the smaller margins.
Second, and least exciting, is bankrupt. There really is not much else to say other than one of the stalwarts of the consumer electronics industry would meet an otherwise early demise despite such an astronomical start.
The third option is a bounce back. We have talked about GoPro restructuring their portfolio, dropping their ambitious verticals, and getting back to their roots. Of course with a business model based on indestructible gadgets, it's kind of hard to sell another one without a huge upgrade. But the HERO5 seeing an uptick in sales after a price drop could mean that GoPro is close to success, they just haven't figured out the right price point. Cutting jobs and shifting focus could help that.
At the end of the day, it's looking dark for GoPro. Maybe they will turn the ship around before it is too late, but they are certainly off to a rough start.