Hydrow: not your average rowing machine


In the past, rowing machines weren’t an easy sale. Especially among home fitness fans.

Although rowing exercise machines use more muscle with less impact than treadmills and stationary bikes, most of the world’s leading rowers are too big, too loud, and too expensive to earn a place in people’s homes.

Then there is that Hydrow;; The high-tech rowing machine that, with the help of a $ 65 million investment and real rowing know-how, is disrupting the networked fitness industry as a whole.

“As a rower and former US national team coach, I’ve seen firsthand the profound effects rowing can have,” says CEO and Founder Bruce Smith of Being on the Water. “

The difficulty, of course, was repeating these, if not all, experiences in a home fitness machine. Peloton

had done this with stationary bikes by adding live classes accessible through a touchscreen, but immersive rowing seemed to be far more of a challenge.

“I’ve had this entrepreneurial bias for a long time,” he says, “but we didn’t know whether people would like the rowing machine or not.”

Smith admits he wasn’t sure Hydrow would work as a company, but believed the right entry into the market could be on the shoulders of CrossFit and Orange Theory, both of which popularized rowing for fitness in the early 2010s, and one could provide superior experience.

“It was an abused youth who spent too much time messing around in boats, which ultimately led to the expertise,” says Smith. “Nobody but me and two other people in the world really knows how to quantify the rudder stroke.”

After working many years quantifying constancy on the water before the concept of hydrow even occurred to him, Smith turned to his friend and former world champion of the US rowing team, Richard “Dick” Cashin, to get the idea past him.

“People had guessed it, but they hadn’t really done the job of building a robot. We’ve put a lot of effort into – which is now kind of an inside joke because it’s our row bot – and we can measure force curves in a way that literally no one else can. “

Without a formal presentation, it was more than enough for Cashin (now president of private equity firm One Equity Patners) to invest.

Hydrow Live Outdoor Reality

With Hydrow’s ‘Live Outdoor Reality’ technology, rowers feel like they’re on the water, even when they’re at it … [+] At home


“I think the fact that the industry hasn’t innovated in 30 years made it clear that there was a great opportunity,” says Smith. “The most popular rowing machines were developed in the early 1980s.”

Still, the process of designing and manufacturing an unprecedented device was incredibly expensive. An estimated eight to ten million has been invested in the process.

When the first products were ready in late 2018, Smith was encouraged to test the market on Indiegogo before looking for further investment.

“I didn’t know if it would work and it’s nerve-wracking to go live, but we got there in four minutes,” he says, still sounding a bit surprised. “You have investors like, ‘We trust you, we think you did a good job with other things, we’re giving you $ 10 million!’ But no one understood the scale of the opportunity and that was the first clue.”

Although the company’s original investors assumed that rowers would be the first to show interest in Hydrow’s ‘Live Outdoor Reality Rower’, more than 90% of the units were purchased by non-rowers. “That was great evidence for us. A really big deal, ”he says.

Just four months later, LVMH-backed private equity giant L Catterton led the company’s first major seeding round with a $ 20 million investment, followed by another round of $ 25 million in June 2020.

Hydrow patents

With multiple patents protecting Hydrow’s technology, there is currently nothing like it on the … [+] market


Primarily, Hydrow’s funding was used to literally grow as fast as possible.

The Hydrow Class Library, all taught by world-class athletes (seasoned rowers and Olympians) on some of the most beautiful international waterways in the world, is constantly expanding and accessible both live and on-demand.

At a time when many are feeling isolated and looking to flee, both the feeling of exercising outdoors and the sense of camaraderie and support among members have helped hydrow grow six times its size from 2019-2020 is.

“It was way better than expected and we had ambitious projections – which we exceeded, which I think is unusual,” he laughs. “I think the most exciting thing for us is that the growth rate has continued to accelerate as we passed the 1 year mark in the pandemic.”

Hydrow launched in the UK in March 2021: an objectively big step considering the Henley-hosting nation is among the most row-obsessed (and still Covid-banned) in the world.

“Here in the USA rowers are not very well known. They get coverage every four years, “Smith shrugs,” but rowing is really cultural in England and I think the reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive. “

In addition to thousands of “excellent” reviews on Trustpilot from verified customers, there are also celebrity fans – like professional tennis player Sloane Stephens, NBA player Carmelo Anthony and ESPN’s Adam Schefter – who have turned to social media for their love share Hydrow.

Pretty competitive upswing for the fledgling company when you factor in the established industry leader Peloton had to call back its treadmills this month.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to change people’s lives,” says Smith. “We’re seeing it go way beyond what people currently think of as ‘connected fitness,’ and so much more in the order of our friends at Nike

and Adidas. “

Row tower bridge

Hydrow users can now virtually row with professionals on some of the world’s most beautiful waterways