Contour closes Seattle HQ, shocks employees — execs mum on status of GoPro rival

contour

Contour’s HQ in Seattle was closed and locked, with no one inside, when GeekWire stopped by today.

Contour Inc., one of the pioneers in wearable camera technology, has abruptly closed its Seattle headquarters — surprising many of its employees and leaving the future of the company unclear.

Founded in 2004, the company employed more than 70 people at its peak. It has faced stiff competition in recent years from rival GoPro, but Contour had made the prestigious Inc. 500 list as recently as last year with reported 2011 revenues of $27.3 million.

Contour6“As of Friday Contour is CLOSED,” wrote Jacob Hase, the company’s former social media manager, in a public post on his personal Facebook page this week. “Ya, it shocked all the employees even more. Incredibly hard to just walk away from something you put so much energy into.”

He added in a follow-up comment, “No one really knows what happened. We were just told we are no longer are employed by Contour and the doors were locked on Friday.”

Contour’s cameras, which can be mounted on helmets, bikes and other equipment, are popular among outdoor sports enthusiasts and others as a way to create first-person point-of-view videos.

[Follow-up: Contour co-founder: ‘We weren’t done showing the world what we could do’]

The company’s headquarters space, in a large suite at Seattle’s Northwest Work Lofts, was locked as of early this afternoon, with no one inside, and others at the complex confirmed that Contour employees haven’t been seen there since last week.

Cameras and accessories on the company’s website, including the $350 Contour+2, are listed as temporarily out of stock. Remaining executives with the company haven’t yet returned messages from GeekWire seeking information on the status of the business.

Marc Barros, the Contour co-founder and former CEO who left the company earlier this year, is no longer affiliated with Contour and said via phone today that he hadn’t received any official word about what was happening beyond what he had read on social media.

Barros said it would be sad to see Contour go away. “People spent a lot of years building a great company,” he said.

A search of King County and federal court records didn’t turn up any further clues. We’ve left a series of messages with Contour executives and former employees and will post updates as we learn more.

Follow-UpContour co-founder: ‘We weren’t done showing the world what we could do’

Follow us on Twitter @GeekWire.

  • http://www.atebymonsters.com Matt

    Sad to hear, the camera had so much potential … perfect size/package. I never liked the box that is GoPro. But you could see Contour had issues keeping up with GoPro spec vs. spec. Curious to know what will happen to their social side of the Contour website … many of my videos are uploaded there and it’s still pretty active.

    Hopefully you hear back, would be interested to hear what will happen to videos uploaded to their service.

  • Seth Yates

    Sad Day.

  • http://www.extendedresults.com/ Patrick Husting

    Wow, from $27 million in revenue to Zero. Sad. They went from Hero to Zero in just a year. I guess if you spend more than you take in, might not be a good business idea.

    • John Loo

      $27m is not much for a business, is it? And it’s revenue, not profits.

  • Shawn

    Great…. my roam2 is not waterproof in less than 1 meter water. It wont power on now.

  • jace ubernuber

    Wow this BLOWS. I have two Contour and they are way better than the go pro. Not only that, but they are almost brand new. Goodbye warranty.

    • Sam Cook

      Better? On what grounds?
      Where are you getting that from ?

      • azntaiji

        Better for the fact that the GoPro sucks for helmet mounting. It’s like carrying a brick on top of your helmet, and when you eat shit you lose it.

        • TeErr

          You should stop eating shit, then

          • azntaiji

            That’s a pretty stupid statement. Why don’t you tell that to everyone else, too?

            Seeing as how the GoPro was made for extreme sports, you’d think that it would be designed for and be able to withstand accidents (which WILL happen). But not really, and they aren’t cheap to replace either.

            Also the latest version of GoPros are known for being so unreliable – the last thing someone would want is for the camera to stop recording when snowboarding down a huge mountain or flying across some awesome landscape, that they won’t be able to capture again.

            When I ride with my GoPro on my helmet, it feels super awkward and sticks out like a brick, pretty stupid design IMO.

          • Rick

            Just mount it lower on your helmet, either front or rear. I’ve mounted my GoPro’s on ski, mountain bike and motorcycle helmets. Never had an issue. How are they known for being unreliable? I’ve never had a problem and have used all the GoPro models over the past 6+ years. To each their own I guess.

          • Steve

            Early after the Hero 3 was released there were a lot of problems with batteries, locking up with certain sized cards, people losing footage, etc. Even on GoPro’s own site the user reviews for the Hero 3 black contain lots of gripes about the cameras. However, I think they have been working out the kinks. I put off buying the Hero 3 Black for a while because of all the early complaints. I love the video quality, in the end that is what counts, but I don’t like the package. Plus, software upgrades for GoPro products are a real pain to install.

          • Jeff Stroud

            I had 2 go pro hero 2′s all with wifi and etc etc … they would stop working wifi packs would stop taking charge. go pro was good about replacing the batteries but shit man really video would just stop recording after large bumps . my contour fits better on the side of my helmet giving me a eye level view. i have mounted it on my hat brim under my hat brim. all places a gopro cant go .

          • NordieBoy

            I’ve got vid of a rider being pulled off a motorbike by a branch hitting a top of helmet mounted gopro. The camera tilted up slightly…

          • azntaiji

            Ate shit on my bike today as I went over the handlebars, it flew off.

          • califmerchant

            i fell of my bed thx for the laugh

      • jace ubernuber

        On what grounds? My own personal use, you jackass.

      • http://www.atebymonsters.com Matt

        For me it’s better mainly just for the form factor alone. It’s smaller than the GoPro which allows it to fit in tight spaces for some killer shots. I personally own a Roam2 which is waterproof up to 1 meter (3 feet), which none of the GoPro’s I believe can do. Those two right there are key features I look for in a wearable camera.

        Plus I owned a Contour GPS too, so I’m already invested in their mounting gear. Moving to GoPro would require all new mounts let alone camera = expensive move.

        Like azntaiji stated, with a GoPro on a helmet you look like a Teletubbie.

        • Real Talk

          GoPro is far superior to any other camera out there and now with the new app release every other competitor should close it’s doors as well…Just wait for the holiday release. Going to be awesome.

          • http://www.atebymonsters.com Matt

            Each person has their opinions. For the uses I needed the Contour camera as on the top of the list.

          • CB

            Drift HD Ghost has had the app that gopro just came out with, big whoop. The HD Ghost is sleek and small unlike the go pro and has many more ways to mount, additional mounting to work with your existing go pro mounts, a screen to watch and delete what you do or don’t want on your camera, waterproof without a housing, built in speaker and mic, option to run an external mic, rotating lens, longer battery life, a remote comes with the camera, multiple ways to mount, and many more. I just mentioned a camera superior to gopro, I honestly couldn’t care less about contour but it does suck to see any large business go under. DRIFT HD GHOST FTW.

          • funion

            Then once everyone else is gone they can TRIPLE THE PRICE. I am going to copy the GoPro and sell it in China under the sTOPaMATUER.

        • KewlDewd

          “waterproof up to 1 meter (3 feet), which none of the GoPro’s I believe can do”

          What??? The gopros are rated for up to 60 meters.

          • http://www.atebymonsters.com Matt

            Rated 1 meter without a waterproof case, sorry I forgot to add that.

            Last time I checked if you want to take your GoPro under water you are required to have the case … which is nice they include with the initial camera purchase.

        • Hank

          LOL GOPRO isn’t water proof?

          Waterproof and Depth Rating

          Each of the HD HERO cameras come in a protective waterproof case that is capable of withstanding depths of up to 197 feet (60 meters). Before taking the unit in the water you’ll want to be sure to verify that there is no dirt or debris along the white rubber gasket that could compromise the integrity of the waterproof case.

          To ensure that the camera is fully sealed, push the housing backdoor all the way in before securing the black latch on the top of the case.

          If you are using the camera in salt water, it’s always a good idea to safely remove the camera and wash the housing with fresh water.

      • John Loo

        I can imagine someone with a GoPro going dirtbiking and falling off his bike because the GoPro got stuck in a branch. Anyone experience that before? Best place to mount is at the chin of the helmet, but then you’d have to mess around with your helmet.

  • Guest

    Wow, that’s not good. Will be interesting to find out more soon. Sorry that all the employees who busted their rears to make it a quality product and company got the shaft. I thought Contour had great potential. They never did market themselves very well, but they had a great product.

    • Jeremy

      Right, it looks like it was a good camera, but I’ve never heard of it until now.

  • Sunhiner

    That sucks, no way will i ever use a go pro.I will have to buy up on stock of Contours once they are released to clear out.
    I hope the website stays up, i have vid there that is history of mine that i no longer have the originals for.
    ‘Guest’ at the bottom hit the nail on the head with marketing etc, so much lost potential.

  • http://proedgebiker.com/ PROEDGEBIKER.COM

    prob not the reason they’re OOB but for a while now i’ve been saying that they have failed to meet the industry standard of 170° @1080p, if a person spends that much $$$ for a 1080p cam, you want to record in that mode. The wider the angle the less cam shake. & GoPro is just a soapbox on your head…DRIFT INNOVATION GHOST FTW! #RIPCONTOUR

  • Robbie

    Sad to see one of the pioneers go but it leaves the number two slot wide open. I own a Drift HD Ghost and really think this is time for them to step into Contour’s shoes and take the number two spot! No-one wants a toaster on their head.

  • me

    I think that drift ghost takes some clients from contour.

  • Konrad

    Contour was my favorite until i came across the Liquid Image Ego. I highly recommend this action sports camera, http://www.liquidimageco.com

  • Matthew Mang

    Marketing failure. obviously overall biz mismanagement, but gopro has been marketing like crazy for years…and doing it relatively cheap most of the time. Contour did nothing to match. FAIL

    • Nathan Decker

      Relatively cheap? Super bowl ads aren’t cheap. GoPro had a deeper stack and Contour was outspent in just about every area, especially marketing. Contour’s product was solid but you can’t beat Russia in a land war.

  • EnemyOfMankind

    BLAME their marketing – They had zero marketing what so ever and when they did make a commercial it wasn’t even showing how cool the camera was, it’s showing some lady doing yoga on a mountain. When a company has been around 9 years and nobody knows your name, that should tell you who’s fault it is. I have a Contour cam and love it but it never ceased to amaze me how many people who saw it in person wanted one and had no idea what it was.

  • http://marcbarros.com/ Marc Barros

    Wow, this is a hot conversation.

    I’m not sure where the anger or the finger pointing comes from. At the end of the day, building a company is hard and takes a lot of work. Judging it from the outside is easy to do.

    The ending is sad and good people out of a job is horrible. But I know everyone involved was proud of what they were able to build over the nine years. GoPro did a great job at building their brand, they should be commended.

    • Ben There

      On board with Marc. I’ve been at two companies that tanked and dumped great people and technology and it really hurts. I expect there are a lot of excellent camera people who can find opportunities in San Mateo ….

    • pete

      Marc, By any chance were you guys involved with twenty/twenty? They were out of your neck of the woods back in ’04/’05. Contour was a stellar camera, great design and the iPhone app was awesome, story teller was great too. The fact that I could see my pov on the phone, then download and see vid with inset of google earth and stats. Bummer to see Contour fade out. Hopefully somebody will take them over and go a further.

      • http://marcbarros.com/ Marc Barros

        Contour and twenty20 are the same company. We did such a great job with branding we first called it twenty20, then VholdR, then Contour. :-)

    • Avidius

      You commend GoPro here, yet you spoke negatively about them in the updated post. So I’ll be honest with you as someone who used to work in the snowsports industry selling both the Contour and GoPro. I’ll also speak to you as someone who chose a GoPro over the Contour. First of all, I couldn’t recommend your product over the GoPro to customers. The only merit your camera had was its design and ease of use. The GoPro has several package options with specific mounts. It comes with a waterproof casing. It has always had a plethora of mounting options which is something that Contour lacked for a while. But above all, the video quality of the GoPro was blindingly superior to Contour’s. Easily shown by videos we had playing from both cameras at equal settings.

      I was rooting for you guys. I was hoping that when the Hero 2 came out, that you guys would release a superior camera with better video. That didn’t happen. Instead you added things like GPS and a wider lens. And if memory serves right, didn’t you also add color options? Sorry things happened the way they did, but that’s an honest opinion of mine. I think it’s poor form for you to make fun of GoPro’s form factor and insinuate that they won on marketing power alone when their camera’s hardware was superior through-and-through.

      • http://marcbarros.com/ Marc Barros

        The other geekwire post you talk about was a paragraph taken from a two page post. If you read my posts I give gopro a lot of credit in a variety of topics.

        We made product decisions along the way we thought were the right direction, which is always easy to critique after the fact. We tried to do a lot, including video, data, sharing, connectivity.

        • Avidius

          Whether or not you commended GoPro is irrelevant. You spoke very negatively about the product and actually the consumers as well by saying you can’t believe something that ugly does well on the market (I paraphrase). That one paragraph negated any positive comments you made about the GoPro. It’s like me calling a woman hot, but dumb. Actually, the better analogy would be me calling a woman smart, but ugly. And I’d be giving the woman more credit than you did GoPro.

          Yes, it is easy to critique after the fact. Here’s the thing though, I’ve been critiquing your camera for several years. If I, as a seller of your product and possible customer, saw the flaws of the Contour in comparison to the GoPro, why couldn’t you guys? Honestly, I wouldn’t be speaking negatively at all about you guys had it not been for your “a paragraph” quote.

          • Not Brandon

            It *is* ugly. Why has that FACT gotten you so butthurt?

            It would be nice if you’d spend this much energy attacking GoPro for not bothering to hire a competent industrial designer and popping the one of the two zits (the other being price) on the face of their product line. But no, you’ve picked a team and are trashing the rivals like a high school kid.

          • Avidius

            I’m not butthurt lol. I’m attacking the comment made by a former CEO after his company failed. He didn’t bow out like a professional. Instead, he chose to attack the rival that defeated him. Poor form. So yea, I’m defending GoPro. Is that all you got? It’s ugly? Price? It was price competitive with the contour. There are different models just like Contour. And at all price points, the GoPro was the better camera. Talking about hiring a competent industrial designer? How about you use that same logic against Contour? Because obviously they failed at something…

          • Stuart

            At the end of the day when I buy a video camera I am more concerned about the quality of the video it produces than how it looks. Based upon that, I own a GoPro.

    • TheWord

      Man what a bummer. I had hoped I could get Contour to sponsor my local Airsoft group as we are also Seattle based.

    • Jeff Stewart

      I have heard the phrase ‘they got out-marketed’ thrown around a bunch in our office, but I am unclear what that really means. I understand the concept of failing to reach your target audience, but where there any specific areas that they did particularly poorly, or conversely, that GoPro did exceptionally well? Trying to pull specifics out of this to apply to our product marketing.

    • Andy Powell

      Yes building a company is hard but, honestly, would you even try to defend how the employees found out they no longer had a job? It shows a complete lack of respect for them.

      • http://marcbarros.com/ Marc Barros

        I didn’t. I made the same comment on the other post. How it happened was bad and I’m sorry I was no longer there to make it different. I have not been at the company for several months.

        • Andy Powell

          I wasn’t suggesting that you were involved, simply pointing at where the venom may be from. I was also asking if you thought it possible to defend how it happened (from the employees point of view).

      • John Loo

        Gutted their customers too, didn’t they? Could’ve given some warnings first. Maybe got new investors in who still believe the company can make money. You don’t just go bankrupt suddenly like oops we’re out of money!

  • PG

    Its a shame to see Contour go. However There are plenty of other options on the market to Go Pro. Most of which have the similar or better functions for less Money. MUVI and Ghost from UK brands Veho and Drift respectively both come in at a cheaper price point and the footage is equally as as good as Go Pro. The MUVI has the most mounting options on the market and is the real unsung hero in this category.

  • normiss

    Competition. The other guys won.

  • Einar Gregorios

    Shame! One of the few products that don’t make one look like a moron when used.. Go-Pro looks idiotic.

    • Jason Farris

      Exactly. I really wanted good things for Contour even before I knew they we’re local.

    • Replay XD Australia

      Can always look at http://www.replayxd.com

      • Einar Gregorios

        Not a replaceable battery, low battery capacity, no GPS and the picture quality is good but could be so much better. And your camera is old, very very OLD. Why don’t you develop? Why have you stagnated, WHY? So OFF you GO and do MUCH BETTER!!!

        • Replay XD Australia

          Professional billet mounts, extended batteries up to 6+hours extra running time, hardwire kits with auto stop/start ReView monitor, and the 56 gram XD720 have all been developed during this time, and Replay XD is still here.

  • Jason Farris

    Oh gosh. I needed some mounts too, I lost my goggle mount last time at Whistler.

    I preferred the Contour’s form factor but there are a couple of things that slowed me down from buying more… I had intended to get three or four but only have the one.

    1 – dependence on Quicktime. I don’t own any Apple machines so getting the footage to work natively in Premier, or even any of the cheapo video editors was a pain. My 60fps video would routinely be crushed to 30fps in conversion by the native QT support, took constant attention to settings and plugins to make sure the footage wasn’t being deprecated… and an install of ***shudder*** QuickTime was required. The product was made with mostly Macs in mind.

    2 – low light performance: I know it’s designed for outdoors, but the interior performance was very bad. Worse, you would have to USB the camera to a computer in order to adjust it’s exposure / brightness / contrast settings, so if you accidentally walked out the door to a concert, with a camera dialed in for snowboarding footage, you came back with very dark footage even if you were shooting reasonably well-lit performances. Even with exposure/brightness/contract set to the max, it would be quite dark if shot in anything less than direct sunlight. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82GerwTmCW4

    • brolly321

      could you not just USB the camera to an android phone to adjust the light settings

  • jd

    I’m sorry to see them go. I liked the form factor and thought the quality of the 1080p was fine. ymmv. But it says a lot in how they treated the employees. GoPro has the market now but Kodak & Polaroid & Compaq did too.

  • Deput Dog

    I don’t quite understand the logic of bashing one company over the other. Either way its a loss to us all, including GoPro customers, that Contour are not trading. Healthy competition means better, cheaper products for us. Now GoPro will be laughing all the way to the bank as they can set high prices because the main competition is out of the race and we’ll all be paying for it.

  • Crossrich

    A couple of comments from an aviator’s point of view

    1) Go-Pro HERO3 vs Contour2+ – I own and use both on my aircraft to capture my low level flight work. The key feature that I have with my NFlightcam’s Contour2+ was its GPS tracking capability. It incorporated in the .MOV metadata my flight’s altitude, airspeed, and ground track. a very useful feature for a pilot’s post review of the flight. This was one of the main reason NFlightcam’s Contour camera was such a hit in the aviation community. It provided an instant post flight debriefing capability. Perfect for flight training

    2) On Contour closure – while a product technical capability are a key factor in company’s ability to sell; just as critical is focusing on the business basic (finance, marketing, and cash flow). While tech is fun, business is a must!

    3) Post closure support – Just because a company shuts its door does not mean users stop using their products. There are a lot of Contour owners out there. I am hoping an enterprising Contour techie sets up a Contour support business for those of us existing customers with Contour cameras. I know I would make use of them, even with he loss of warranty. If my camera breaks, I m looking at $400 paperweight.

  • PB

    Every GoPro video I watch always starts with the person who owns the camera looking at it to see if it is on and filming. Will miss the Contour with the easy switch, no need to look at the stupid thing to see if it is filming, taking a picture ect.

  • Mossrock

    Change to ION…. similar shape to Contour with a host of extra features and well priced. GoPro is nice but a little brick, Ions are excellent especially on bikes and water sports.

  • Dustin

    sad to hear this, I guess I’ll just quit saving up for a contour and get a tachyon, video quality is important but as a paintball player size and weight constraints make the go pro a bad option for me, yes people have done it but i would rather not have the big target sticking off my head and dragging down my goggles.

  • Jeff Stroud

    sounds like the CEO took a huge chunk of change and left them reeling until they realized they could no longer pay the bills on what little was left. Then had to close i always say follow the money. just like when enron went down and the heads of enron left the company just 6 months before all hell broke..

    • Fixmycamera

      Like Crossrich says, some after sales support would be nice.
      Our Contour bought just a few month back has failed (under warranty) within the past month and despite numerous attempts to contact Contour, we have had no response to get it fixed or replaced.
      Does anyone know if the company is actually bankrupted and if so which court is hearing the case, so that we can out a claim in. Someone somewhere will be cleaning up the assets and debts?
      Alternatively, is anyone who used to work there going to start up to offer support?

  • Tony Alarid

    What I wanna know is what about my camera I sent in to get fixed? I bet its just sitting over there. Who shall I call or get ahold of ? you would think they would at least finish their part and let the customer know.

  • Kit

    With Contour gone, what’s a good non-gopro alternative? I’ve been checking out Looxcie, they have added a waterproof case and the live video streaming seems cool.

    • pm2727

      I have been happy with my Liquid Image Ego.

  • dmj

    im way late with the news. contour is the best in all ways. 1 button does all the work. never been a firmware problem on any of my contours, durable and a rotatable lense that will get the perfect shot no matter what the angle. endless amounts of mounts. i could give a crap what gopro comes out with. they rule in 1 thing and that was marketing themselves. the cameras themselves are so overrated.

  • Brandon Kilburrn

    So I ordered a lens replacement before they went out of business. that was almost 3 months ago. never got my order and they took my money. Is there anything I can do on my end?

  • Steve in NC

    I liked the Contour design from the start, it seems to be a decent platform but my experience with Contour was they never seemed to want to get their product into the hands of the outdoor crowd. They had every chance to do as GoPro did, lose some bucks on product but have their camera in the hands of mtn bikers, snowboarders, surfers, climbers, auto racing, etc. I always saw GoPro at events, never really saw a Contour presence. I contacted Contour multiple times about some type of sponsorship as I work with multiple types of outdoor sports from racing to 3 gun shooting to adventure travel. Never asked for a free anything, just a request to talk with someone. Got a canned email response and was directed to go to their website to purchase or my nearest Best Buy.

    So I emailed GoPro. Had two phone conversations and sent them examples of my work, in a week was given a special code to purchase product at a discount, sent a box of five of every part they make as well two brand new GoPro’s, a few housings, spare batteries etc – non of which I asked for. And I was put in touch with a vendor that made specific mounts that I needed and received a discount on that as well.

    GoPro seemed to want to be a part the sports world where Contour in my opinion never wanted to step up. Wish Contour the best of luck in the future. Competition is good for consumers and companies, keeps prices in check and forces companies to always push the limits, evolve and produce a better product. Maybe someone with Contour will read posts like this and work on a smarter business model for the next time around.

  • Ben Rush

    I know this is only based on one, personal experience, but I feel like they utterly deserved it.

    I bought a contour+ when they came out, with a bunch of contour accessories, all new, from amazon.co.uk. On my first kitesurf outing with the waterproof case and board mount, the case popped open and flooded/ruined the camera. I actually managed to pull a video off the SD showing the case popping open hands-free and water pouring in, and a quick search found a few other people who’d had similar problems with the case.

    Contour’s attitude? Total disinterest. They insisted the local retailer had to cover repairs, but the retailer wouldn’t replace the camera as it wasn’t at fault, and wouldn’t replace the case either. It took a lot of angry emailing before they even acknowledged that sending it all to them was even a possibility (at my expense), and they wouldn’t commit to anything in terms of repair/warranty. They also ignored my repeatedly asking them whether they were aware of the issues people had been having with the waterproof case.

    If you’re selling a product like this, which is essentially an expensive toy that appeals to people who have probably-expensive hobbies which they want to film (and are probably going to be passionate about), you cannot afford to treat your clients like this. Because of the nature of the activities and the appeal, word-of-mouth and informal reputation is going to be a huge factor. My kitesurf mates all heard me bitching for months, and my snowboard buddies had to endure a trip with me whining on how my months-old camera had spent almost all its life broken. I don’t think it’s a coincidence none of them bought Contours after that!

  • Mels

    love my Contour…..hate the stupid teletubbie looking GoPro on top your helmet…..Contour’s much cooler on the side!!