Hydrow sells a connected indoor rowing machine that also features live and on-demand classes
Steven Loeb and Bambi Francisco Roizen speak with Bruce Smith, founder and CEO of Hydrow, the creators of a connected indoor rowing machine that also features live and on-demand classes.
Members pay to lease the rowing machine, and also pay a monthly subscription to access daily live workouts with Hydrow athletes, a library of on-demand rowing workouts, other fitness content such as pilates, yoga, strengthening and stretching workouts, the Hydrow community of fellow rowers, and one free personalized coaching session per month.
Hydrow has raised $110.8 million in venture funding.
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Highlights from the interview:
- Smith was a rower himself, and tried to make the Canadian national team. He wound up coaching and ended up working at Community Rowing, which is a rowing club for kids from all the different neighborhoods in Boston and people with different situations in their lives. It was through that experience that he realized he wanted to make rowing part of people’s daily lives.
- Human beings are hardwired to crave rhythm and synchronicity. With rowing, you achieve flow right away. You have to be in rhythm with the person in front of you and behind you. That experience of rhythm, and the rhythm of being on the water, matches really closely to your heartbeat. With Hydrow, you experience that rhythm in a really visceral and immediate way that’s so much more accessible than almost any other sport out there.
- Hydrow recreates the experience of being out on the water by recreating it digitally and making it immersive. The company films on the water with between five and 15 cameras and filmed with a lot of intentionality and art to recreate what we the company has trademarked as “live outdoor reality.” It’s the feeling of the rhythm, it’s the feeling of connecting with the athlete who’s out there on the water, it’s the feeling of moving through the world. It’s taking that experience of being outside and delivering it into your home.
- Users lease the Hydrow machine for $63 a month and then pay $38 a month for the subscription. Pre-pandemic, about 60 million people were paying an average of $57 a month for a gym membership, which could be over $100. Of those 60 million people, 30 million never actually went to the gym. By leasing out the Hydrow machine, the company solves that friction. Smith calls it a triple win, where you don’t have to travel, it saves you time, and it’s an experience the whole family can use.
- Hydrow doesn’t consider itself a rowing company, but a whole health company, and it employs exercise physiologists and people who are actual experts in whole health. That makes it very different from fitness companies that really focus on the entertainment aspect of their content. The world is getting educated about what it means to be healthy from a health perspective and using your full body just makes sense and rowing is one of the few exercises that does that really, really well for people.
- During the pandemic, Hydrow became desirable as a product; after the pandemic, the company continued to grow, even as people went back to in-person gyms. That’s because people are getting educated about rowing overall, and making different choices. The company’s members have also become their best salespeople.
- The future of fitness will be a hybrid model, and the company is already taking to gyms about having Hydrow machines in their spaces.
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