GoPro Loses Two-Year Battle With the Sky

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

The Karma is finally dead.

First announced in December of 2015, action cam company GoPro has pulled the plug on its heavily delayed, disastrous aerial photography drone, best known for its spectacular propensity for falling out of the sky. The news comes days after a report that said the company was laying off several hundred employees, most of whom were attached to its drone flight devision.


GoPro came to prominence through a smart but unsustainable salvo of first-person extreme sports videos. It bet big on the Karma—its foray into drones—to distinguish itself from less expensive competitors like Xiaomi which have been eating away at its market share for mini action cams... by pushing into the already crowded drone game dominated by heavyweights like DJI.

That plan, like so many Karma drones before it, crashed and burned.

GoPro has been financially unhealthy for some time, and according to TechCrunch, cutbacks now extend to CEO Nicholas Woodman, who has reduced his pay to $1. (As of the time of this article’s publication, a Karma can still be purchased through GoPro’s website for $600.)




GoPro is following the exact plot arc that the Flip Video camera had, but in a smaller niche where they’ve been able to hold on longer. First, you take advantage of the cell phone ecosystem to get access to pretty good, cheap components - from chips to cameras - and then release a product that’s a generation or two ahead of what a phone’s camera can do.

Then the fact that cell phones sell in the 10s or 100s of millions each year, while your product sells, at most, a million or two, means that cell phones catch up.

There aren’t enough people who want to make surfing videos so bad that they’ll spend $400 on a camera to keep the company afloat; there’s no way GoPro can keep on investing what it needs to to keep its products relevant given the numbers they’re selling.