The Cloud

The Perks of the Cloud

GoPro CFO Kurt Amundson tells how the Cloud has helped the camera company manage rapid growth.
Ed ZwirnAugust 15, 2013

GoPro, a privately owned company in San Mateo, Calif. that is known for its “wearable” cameras, was founded in 2002 by surfer Nick Woodman. The company, which began selling cameras using 35mm film technology in 2004, has since seen its products go digital and has built up a retail network of 36,000 stores.

When CFO Kurt Amundson joined GoPro in December 2009, the company had eight full-time employees. It now has 450 employees and is still hiring. “We built a billion-dollar business on $265,000 in capital,” he is perhaps understandably fond of saying.

CFO 360 recently caught up with Amundson to get the inside story on how GoPro’s reconfiguration into the Cloud has helped him handle his CFO job and helped his company cope with rapid startup growth.

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CFO: GoPro was founded in 2002 and started selling cameras using 35 mm film in 2004. At its inception, were all its IT func­tions locally hosted or were they already in the Cloud?

Amundson: We weren’t in the Cloud at all. It was all local.

CFO: So what was the setup and which programs was the company using when you arrived?

Amundson: When I arrived in 2009, it was Quickbooks. The only other one we used was a third-party card processor and merchant processor called UltraCard to process credit cards. That gets a lot of the sales information and processes credit cards. A lot of these early businesses don’t offer you credit cards.

CFO: What role have you played in the evolution of the system since then?

Amundson: When I got there in 2009, they were in the process of implementing NetSuite, which was Cloud-based.

CFO: Has the transition to the Cloud been a costly or cumbersome endeavor? How do you break down the costs and benefits?

Amundson: It wasn’t costly at all since the office didn’t have much investment in the infrastructure. It took a while to get everyone trained and used to it because it was a much bigger and more sophisticated program.

CFO: GoPro’s grown tremendously in staffing even since you came on board. Would you say you’d have had to add even more staff without this transition and where would that staffing have gone?

Amundson: If we didn’t transition to the Cloud through NetSuite eventually I know it would have been a much more onerous work environment. As to how many people, it’s difficult to say, but it would be very much more onerous.

CFO: How many people would you have had to add in the fi­nance area? Do you have any feel for that?

Amundson: Today we are at approxi­mately 50. It’s really hard to say, but I know it would be more.

CFO: Is the bulk of your financial report­ing and analysis in the Cloud at this point? Do you keep some documents or data back at a local level?

Amundson: Yes. A lot of analysis is in Excel when the data gets downloaded out of the Cloud. 

CFO: Do you find you get a lot of flex­ibility with Excel?

Amundson: Excel gives you flexibility because you can tailor things to exactly what you want to do whereas with a lot of the applications you’re limited by the struc­ture of how the information is presented.

CFO: Do you keep some documents, for example, at a local level for security pur­poses?

Amundson: Yes, we do. We do load everything into NetSuite, all the invoices and everything, but there are more and more corporate documents, like license agreements and other sorts of things and not necessarily financial documents per se, other than what we have say in Excel or something.

CFO: Do you have plans to enhance your Cloud functionality that are still in the transition stage?

Amundson: Yes. What we do is we just keep putting bolt-on programs to your core programs in NetSuite that interact with this and give you all this added functionality, so there’s always additional programs or addi­tional tools that bolt on and work within the environment and work together.

CFO: I imagine the Cloud must be pretty central to your customer systems like customer service itself or file sharing or customer enhancements. Can you break this down?

Amundson: Within the Cloud and with­in the programs there’s kind of a functional­ity and features that we use. That’d be the customer service, the customer tracking, order tracking and all that sort of stuff.

CFO: I notice that there’s a lot of fun stuff on your website about file sharing. That’s something you make available to your customers through the Cloud, isn’t it?

Amundson: It sure is.

CFO: Would you have been able to do this stuff if you hadn’t been using SaaS?

Amundson: That does not necessarily de­pend on the Cloud. It’s more our own sys­tem. The functionality of customer service and tracking customers for customer infor­mation and all that stuff is very important to us and that’s available via the Cloud. It’s all central and keeps historical records, so it’s all at your fingertips whenever you want it and you can keep doing historical records.

CFO: Does this type of functionality enable you to get information on trends for analysis more quickly or qualitatively?

Amundson: That’s correct. You can study customers: what their activities are, what they do historically, [and] what their patterns are and you can look for abnormal things.