This week on the ‘Why I Built This’ mini series, Bruce Smith, a Canadian rower & entrepreneur from Boston.
Bruce has devoted pretty much his whole life to rowing. He has won reputable competitions, coached a US team to a Bronze medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, and was the former Executive Director of Community Rowing in Boston. Today Bruce is on a mission to provide everyday people with a magical experience of being on real water within the comfort of their homes via a beautiful machine, Hydrow.
Listen to this week’s episode to learn everything from A to Z about rowing and get a sneak peak into how Bruce is turning Hydrow into the Peloton for rowing.
Three Things You Will Learn
1) Why Rowing Is The Best Workout Of All
Going for a spin class is of course a good enough exercise. But why would you go for good enough instead of the best? Rowing is the absolute full-body training that uses 86% of your muscles, everything from your legs to your arms and even your core.
On top of this it is also an amazing team sport that requires you to be in complete sync with 7 other people in your boat. Humans are naturally wired to like being in sync. For us this is a genuine way of connecting with others. Hence, rowing is not simply good for your physical health, but it also delivers great psychological benefits.
Press play to find out more about the science behind rowing and why you’ll enjoy it even more with Hydrow!
2) Behind The Scenes of Hydrow’s Live Outdoor Reality
If you haven’t heard of Live Outdoor Reality yet, it’s about time as it might just be the next big fitness trend coming our way. The first fitness equipment that uses LOR is Hydrow.
Hydrow basically teleports you to an outdoor water and with an opportunity to join in real-time workouts coached by professional rowers. Sounds like magic, but all it really takes is a talented camera crew, a very dedicated team, and some charismatic rower instructors. And of course, Hydrow.
Tune in to hear all about the sneak peaks of capturing & bringing the magical experience of outdoors rowing to your living room!
3) The Future of Fitness & Hydrow
Hydrow is a very new concept that brings a real first-of-its-kind experience to its users. This was also recognized by the health & fitness community, as they sold out all their pre-orders in just a matter of minutes. So Hydrow‘s success has definitely been great so far, but Bruce and his team are not planning to slow down on innovation anytime soon.
The next big step for Hydrow is the introduction of Augmented Reality. Listen on to hear about Bruce’s 5-year AR vision of looking over your shoulder and seeing the person you’re rowing with!
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSOR: RITUAL
Sticking to your diet is important, but taking care of your health is even more important. Good news is that Ritual, the obsessively-researched vitamin for women, is here to help!
Ritual’s Essentials have the nutrients most of us don’t get enough of from our diets – all in their purest, cleanest forms. No shady additives or ingredients that actually do more harm to your body than good. With Ritual, it only takes two easy-to-take capsules to provide nine nutrients you need to build a stronger foundation for better health.
Visit ritual.com/shape to get 10% OFF your first 3 months!
Subscribe To 20 Minute Fitness
00:04 Martin Kessler: Hey and welcome back to Why I Built This, a sub-series of the 20 Minute Fitness podcast. I’m your host Martin Kessler and on every episode I bring to you an exciting inventor behind a fitness technology company that is really trying to make a difference in this space. And on today’s episode I got a lifelong entrepreneur and rower, Bruce Smith, and without any exaggeration it’s safe to say that Bruce has devoted pretty much all of his life to rowing. He has won reputable competitions, coached the US team to a bronze medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and was the former Executive Director of Community Rowing in Boston. Today, Bruce is on a mission to build a beautiful machine called Hydrow that provides the user with a magical experience that really recreates what it is like to be on real water. And listen to this week’s episode to learn everything from A to Z about rowing and get a sneak peek into how Bruce and his team is planning to turn Hydrow into the Peloton for rowing.
01:00 MK: But before we move on, I’d like to thank our sponsor, ShapeScale. ShapeScale is a 3D body scanner, scale and fitness tracker. You simply step on it and it digitizes your body composition in photorealistic 3D. The team behind ShapeScale is currently looking for new engineers in both hardware and software. So if you’re interested or if you may even know somebody that could be a great fit, please go ahead and have at least a look at our careers page on shapescale.com/careers or simply shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And another quick one, if you like the podcast and enjoy listening, please give us a five star rating on iTunes. It only takes five seconds for you and it could really go a long way for the whole team and the podcast.
01:41 MK: Hey guys, it’s Martin, your host from 20 Minute Fitness. Today, we have an interesting guest, Bruce Smith from Hydrow. Bruce, why don’t you just introduce yourself a little?
01:50 Bruce Smith: Hey, great to be with you on the show. And my name is Bruce Smith. I’m a Canadian living in America and I’m the CEO and Founder of a company called Hydrow.
02:00 MK: What’s Hydrow?
02:01 BS: Yeah, Hydrow is a indoor rowing machine and it uses some pretty revolutionary resistance mechanism technology to make it quiet. But the coolest thing about the machine and the part that we love the most about it is that we broadcast, not fitness classes, but we actually take the experience of being out on the water, rowing, and we have instructors out there who talk to you directly live on a beautiful 22-inch high definition screen with great speakers. So you actually experience being out on the water and being part of a rowing crew from your living room or your bedroom or wherever you put the machine.
02:30 MK: So it’s a little bit like having a Peloton class, except it’s on a rowing machine that is extremely quiet. Whereas Peloton is more about, you know, like almost feeling like you’re dancing, you really are focusing on creating an immersive experience of actually being out there, rowing.
02:45 BS: Exactly. So we have trademarked this idea of live outdoor reality and I love Peloton. We have a Peloton in the office. They’re totally great. It’s really fun. I mean, as you said it, it’s exactly right. It’s like being at the club with your friends, you know you’re not drinking or smoking but you’re… You know, you’re listening to great music and they’re super photogenic people and it’s a fun experience and we love that. That’s great. But for us, the coolest thing that we could think of doing to take this concept of live outdoor reality, LOR, and create an immersive experience, so rather than going to the club every day for your workout, which is great, we can have like great music and really, really charismatic instructors but you’re actually out on the river or on the bay in Miami Beach or rowing by London Bridge.
03:25 MK: So who do you think is it for? Is it like somebody that already owns a Peloton and they wanna mix up their workout or is it really somebody that is looking for a different experience because they don’t like going to a club but they wanna have a little bit of quietness of actually being outdoors and row.
03:39 BS: I think it’s for people who are looking for the very best experience, the best workout experience and the best way to connect with their friends. So Peloton has a leader board, which is great, but you’re really competing… You’re competing by yourself and… You know, not that many people have actually rode out on the water in a boat with other people but the experience of it is unbelievable. You’re right on the water but most importantly, you’re moving in complete rhythm with seven other people.
04:03 MK: Yeah. How do you create that? Because if I’m rowing, let’s say, on a big rowing team or even dragon boating, I need to be in sync with everyone, right? Because as soon as somebody’s out of sync, it’s not working.
04:13 BS: That’s exactly right. And human beings are really hardwired. They love to do things in synchronicity with other people. It makes you feel better. It’s like… It’s a genuine way of connecting. And when you’re biking, you’re at like 95 or 100 beats per minute and you’re really not moving in the same rhythm as the instructor. Like, you’re having a shared experience but it’s not exactly the same rhythm. When you’re on the rowing machine, you’re encouraged and it’s actually really easy. You move every part of your body in exactly the same rhythm as the instructor. And so, there’s some brain science behind this. The brain is an aerobic organ like a muscle. You know, it has energy systems like the rest of your body. And so every time you make a decision in your brain, you’re using some energy. And so when you’re exercising, you have to keep deciding to exercise.
04:52 BS: And the really, really cool thing about rowing, especially when you’re rowing in a crew, not just on a machine by yourself in a room, but when you’re rowing as part of a team, you turn off that decision-making process in your brain because the person that you’re following, the person in front of you is making those decisions so you don’t have to make them. So you achieve the state of flow much much faster and we know from our experience and I know from my experience as a national team coach that it actually has a profound impact on people and it is the best exercise you can do. It’s also, you use 86% of your body’s muscles. When you’re biking, you use like 40%-45% of your muscles.
05:22 MK: ‘Cause you have to use both your arms and legs, it’s really like a full body workout, right?
05:26 BS: Yeah, exactly. And your core and it improves your bone density also. So it really is like, if there was one pill that you could take that would make you friends and make you healthier, you would take that pill, of course. And we feel like we’ve got that pill.
05:40 MK: We all would like that. Let’s say… So, just so our listeners can really imagine how the product experience looks like, so I’m imagining now you’re sitting on a rowing machine and you have a huge monitor of some sort and you see an instructor, but how do you create that experience of somebody actually sitting in front of me, somebody sitting behind me, and I’m not competing against them, but we’re actually working together. Like, how do you create that?
06:01 BS: That’s a really good question. So this isn’t… Like, we didn’t just go out to the river with some of our friends and get some GoPros. We don’t talk about our workouts as workouts, we talk about them as episodes. And we hired this really, really amazing film team, and so we take all of the experience that Hollywood and television have created in the United States and we apply that skill and that art to capturing the whole experience of being out on the water. So we have four cameras. We have a team that is mixing and editing. And that, you know, the most important part of this, there are two things.
06:33 BS: Number one is the rhythm. And so you never lose that rhythm. And the instructor who’s out there with you is encouraging you to be in rhythm with everybody. And it’s very, very easy to follow, like you do it instantly. Even people who’ve never done it before, within two or three strokes, they’re in the right rhythm. And then the other part is that emotional connection, and two things contribute a lot to that. One is music, so we have an amazing library of music. And the other is making sure that when you’re filming, you capture not just the rhythm and the experience of being outside and the environment of being out on the water, but also the eyes of the instructor, and eyes are the window to the soul. And it sounds sort of trite, but it’s unbelievably true. You have to see people’s face and you have to be able to read what’s in their eyes. And it’s that experience of being able to move your whole body in the same rhythm as the instructor, and also connect with them, because you feel what they’re feeling. They’re out on the water and they’re excited about what they’re doing. They’re training for the US national team, and they’re sharing their passion for a sport that they love more than anything else. And it’s really, it is genuinely inspiring. And we’ve had just a crazy response from consumers, which is really encouraging.
07:33 MK: And don’t you think it’s also a little bit challenging to create this experience of recording it with four different cameras, you being also outdoors, and how are you gonna make sure there’s gonna be a lot of different content?
07:45 BS: I mean that’s the whole thing about Live Outdoor Reality, it changes every single day and it changes to minute. I think if you go to our website, hydrow.com, you can actually see a little clip of a video. And one of our instructors, this guy James Dietz, who’s been a rower forever and I crossed paths with him as a national team coach. And he’s rowing along in Miami and this stingray jumps out of the water right behind him, and he…
08:05 MK: No way.
08:05 BS: Yeah, it’s totally… It’s like I never get tired of seeing that clip. But when it happens in real time, our instructors, they’re fully present, they’re there, and they react to it with you. So there’s always something exciting and different. Sometimes it’s super windy, sometimes it’s pouring rain, sometimes it’s freezing cold, sometimes there’s other boats on the water that get in the way. It makes it constantly new and interesting. And so every day, we’re broadcasting, we’re starting with three live workouts a day, and you can access those workouts over time.
08:29 MK: And they’re gonna be actually live?
08:30 BS: Yeah, they’re live.
08:31 MK: Wow, that’s incredible.
08:32 BS: It really is. It’s the kind of thing that 10 years ago, you would have needed a camera truck, and microwaves, and satellites. And now we have some amazing technology that we’ve been able to stitch together. And it was really designed for on land sporting events, and we made some modifications to it, and adapted it. So we have it in a marine environment.
08:48 MK: And you’re recording those from different locations or all from one location, how does that look?
08:53 BS: Yeah. So we have our home base, our year-round home base is in Boston, which is sort of the cradle of rowing in the United States. And so, we started filming on the Charles River last April. And then when it got cold here, we sent our film crew down to Miami Beach and they rowed at the Miami Beach Rowing Club, which is just an incredibly cool rowing club. And the water around Miami is just, it’s so beautiful. And you’ve got all of these super cool boats and unbelievably saturated colors, and all the art deco architecture along the waterway there.
09:19 MK: Gotcha. And you guys, have you already started shipping any product or is it still on pre-order?
09:24 BS: Yeah, excellent question. So we actually, as we speak right now, floating across the ocean in a tanker are the first results of the production line in Taiwan.
09:33 MK: That must be exciting.
09:34 BS: It is, it’s very exciting. We’ve built many prototypes and so customers have seen the prototypes. And we had a pop-up store here in Boston for the past two months. So people have been able to go and try the machine. And then we also had a really, really successful Indiegogo campaign, which kind of blew our minds a little bit.
09:48 MK: Yeah, you guys pre-sold over a million dollar worth of product on Indiegogo, right?
09:51 BS: We did. Yeah, and we sold out, in the first four minutes we hit our goal, which was just… We were overwhelmed. We thought we would match maybe Peloton, they sold 120 bikes, I think, on their Kickstarter campaign. And when we broke a million dollars, we thought, “Oh my God, like people… ” Like, “Thanks.”
10:06 MK: I guess they kind of paved the way for you. When they launched, it was a very unique concept of one company doing it all, the recording of the sessions, the entire bike, and in your case, the entire rowing machine, and also tying it to a service that you would have to pay a monthly or annual fee on. At that time it was, I guess, very new and a lot of people were like, “Well, should I really preorder a product like that?” But times have changed, right?
10:30 BS: They really have, and we’re so grateful to Peloton for paving the way. And the key statistic that kind of changed my mind about what I should do with the rest of my life, there are 60 million people in the United States who belong to gyms. And they pay somewhere around $60 a month. Of those 60 million people, at least 30 million and probably more like 40 million never go to the gym.
10:49 MK: And why do you think that is?
10:51 BS: I think there are like 10 different reasons, but it boils down to: They have to drive, so you can’t… Or they walk. Minimum, if you go to the gym for an hour, it takes you two hours. And if you have any kind of family situation or if you have a significant other, explaining to your kids that you’re gonna be home two hours later, you just can’t do that. And I think the extra effort that people have to go to the gym, like you take those two factors, people are very time-limited and also it takes extra effort. And so…
11:15 MK: And it is an effort. And the minute that you have to make that thought exercise of like, “Hey, I have to do a half-an-hour drive and then another half-an-hour back, I’m already gonna lose one hour. I don’t have the time to do that.” But if you have one sitting in your living room, for instance, like how many excuses can you really make if you have the time?
11:30 BS: I know. Well, no, and you get out of bed. And so we designed our machines specifically to, it belongs upstairs, it’s a very beautiful looking machine. And we also, we have really charismatic instructors and they have amazing stories, and they share their stories with you. So if you get to know James or Danny Henson, they’re training for the US National team or they’re training for a triathlon and you follow their stories a little bit. So we wanna change that equation. So, instead of people thinking like, “Ugh, I should workout. I know I should. I know I’ll feel better after.” We want people to think of it more like their favorite show, like, “Oh, I wanna find out what happened.” They can’t wait to come back the next day, because there’s something new and exciting, because it is live, and it is Outdoor Reality. So there’s this unrolling of the story that happens on a daily basis that really encourages you to come to the machine. And instead of being a push, it becomes a pull. And I think that could be really transformative for people.
12:16 MK: For sure. And what’s the price point of Hydrow?
12:18 BS: The price point is, the MSRP is $2,199, and there’s a $38 subscription in addition to that.
12:26 MK: Got it. And if somebody from our listeners preorders one today, when would they receive theirs?
12:31 BS: We are sold out until, it pains me to say, until June, and you can still put a deposit down, but you won’t be getting a machine until July at the earliest at this point. But the responses, it does seem like people do want something like this in their life, because they wanna feel better.
12:46 MK: Okay, let’s talk a little bit about that. So you have been in rowing for quite some time now, right?
12:50 BS: I know, I’m sort of… I keep trying to get out of it ’cause it’s really…
12:55 BS: Rowing, it’s the oldest sport. It was the first intercollegiate sport in the United States. And weirdly, people think of it as this preppy thing, but everybody in the United States has a piece of rowing in their heart, whether they realize it or not. If you’ve been into a J Crew store, if you’ve worn a crew neck sweater, if you’ve ever got a crew cut, those are all things from rowing. So it has this long history. I started coaching and I really like coaching a lot and I ended up coaching for the US national team and I’ve taken 10 boats for the United States to the world championships to compete and we’ve earned some medals for the US. And so, we have this really deep knowledge of the sport, so these are not fitness instructors. And I think that’s a… It’s like a subtle but important distinction about our product. The people who we have teaching you are really, really passionate about the sport and they’re also the best at it in the world. And this is the key part, it’s not just rowing, it’s also functional movement and it’s also meditation and yoga and being fully present. So as a national team coach, I’ve been teaching people about mitochondrial pathways and how to engage their full musculature. And we can actually take all of that information, make it accessible to people who have never rowed before. And so in 20 minutes, if you give me 20 minutes of your life, I will give you the best workout you’ve ever had bar none.
14:00 MK: Alright. I wanna take a quick break here to give our kind and awesome producer Lilla a chance to share a few words about our sponsor.
14:10 Lilla Laczo: We all want to do the right thing to keep our bodies happy in the long run. But even if we try really hard to eat kale salad and drink green smoothies, we’re still most likely not getting all of the essential nutrients we need on a daily basis. And this is where Ritual, the obsessively-researched vitamin for women can help us. Ritual’s Essentials have the nutrients most of us don’t get enough of from our food, all in their clean, absorbable forms. No shady additives or ingredients that can do more harm to your body than good. Two easy to take capsules provide nine nutrients you need to support a strong foundation for your health.
14:42 LL: So before I started to take Ritual, I was actually really bad at taking vitamins. Even though I grew up in a household that was filled with vitamins and super foods, my mom is crazy about these kind of things, I simply hated the process of figuring out what vitamins my body needs and trying to remember to take all of these different capsules every single morning. So when I heard about Ritual first, I was like, “Okay, this might actually be for me.” And that really turned out to be the case. I’ve been taking Ritual for a couple of months now and I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a more convenient way to give my body everything it needs. Thanks to Ritual’s Essential For Women, my immune system has been stronger than ever and I actually managed to push through the flu season without a single sneeze, which is a massive thing for me.
15:23 LL: And of course, circling back to back to the whole convenience factor as I mentioned it before, Ritual makes the whole process as smooth as you can imagine. So they have a subscription system that you can start by a click of a button, and snooze whenever, and you basically get the 30-day vitamin pack delivered to your doorstep every single month. And all of this only costs $1 per day and your body can get all the essential nutrients it needs. Better health doesn’t happen overnight. And right now, Ritual is offering all of our 20-Minute Fitness listeners a 10% off during your first three months. Fill in the gap in your diet with Essential For Women, a small step that helps support a healthy foundation for your body. Visit ritual.com/shape to start your ritual today. That is 10% off during your first three months at ritual.com/shape.
16:10 MK: And we’re back on air. And how did you personally actually start to row? What got you into it?
16:15 BS: I got sucked in at college and as I said, I’m Canadian and I went to a school in Montreal. And I was actually on a rowing machine at the gym in my first year of college and I was very sweaty and the captain of the team came over and said, “Hey, you should come out for crew.” And if I had half a brain, I should have walked away then, I should have just stuck… I should have gone and been a lawyer or something. But anyway, here we are.
16:33 MK: It’s funny how it can go, right? That was the first step of a long journey for you, right?
16:38 BS: Yeah, yeah, and it’s been really, really fun. I was lucky I got to build a couple of boathouses in Chicago and worked with a whole lot of juniors. And then I spent the past 10 years working at this amazing non-profit called “Community Rowing” in Boston. And we grew that and that’s where the seed for this project came from. To some degree, the whole point of Community Rowing was to introduce the sport to new people. And as we grew and grew, I thought, “Okay, how do we really get this to scale? Not everybody can get out on the water and it’s really hard and expensive to build boathouses, but what if we could digitize the whole experience? And so the board that I worked with at Community Rowing said, “You should go do that as a private venture. It’s very risky and we want the non-profit to stick to our mission.” So I said, “That’s a great idea.” And I found some investors and a year later, here we are.
17:21 MK: That’s incredible, that story, how you even got into that.
17:24 BS: I know, it’s a highly unlikely story. And especially being a Canadian in the United States and with Harvard just down the street, our offices are here in Harvard Square, there are a lot of people in the rowing world who know secret handshakes and I am not one of those people. So…
17:38 BS: Yeah, I’ve been very, very lucky to find an amazing team here who… I think there’s something… You’re able to hire better engineers because you are trying to do something good in the world and create people who feel more connected and who feel happier. And so as a result, we’ve assembled just this amazing team and we’ve been able to bring our product to market. And I think exactly, it was like 12 months and 20 days roughly.
18:00 MK: But you have been already for quite some time in Boston, right?
18:02 BS: Yeah, I’ve lived in Boston for the past 12 years, I guess.
18:05 MK: And how did you actually end up going to Boston? Because you mentioned that you went to school in Canada, you were originally Canadian, but you have been for quite some time now in the US, right?
18:13 BS: I know. I’ve had a… I was zipping around, I fell in love with a lovely person at McGill, and she wanted to go to school in Chicago so we moved to Chicago and I lived there for several years. And at a certain point, my kids were growing up and I thought it would be cool if they could have a more country experience, more similar to how I grew up. And so my former wife and I moved to Vermont and I ended up coaching at Dartmouth College for a couple of years as an assistant coach. That gig at Dartmouth led me to coach at a rowing club down here in Boston called “Riverside Boat Club”. And from there, it was a hop, skip and a jump to end up working full-time at Community Rowing. I’m really not a non-profit person, I think that non-profits are a little bit sketchy overall. But I really loved working at Community Rowing and it combined all of my interests perfectly and we were able to treat it really like a startup. And I learned a huge amount working with the team over there too.
18:58 MK: And was that also like the area where you got inspired to actually start building Hydrow or you have a defining moment that got you into the whole idea of building it?
19:07 BS: It was really… A large part was watching what Peloton was doing. So we thought we would open studios to promote our mission at Community Rowing and that’s hard work and it’s business. And just watching the leverage that Peloton was able to get, and we thought, “Wouldn’t it be incredible… ” I can’t adequately describe, I should be a poet, or something.
19:26 BS: But being out on the water with other people is a very special experience. And it really changes your day, and before you get on, your stressed and you’re worried and you get on the water, and you’re working in unison with somebody else. And by the end of a 20 or 30-minute workout, you’ve changed your perspective on the world. And myself and the team here really wanted to take that on-water experience, and make it genuinely accessible ’cause it’s just… We can’t build 10,000 access points to water in the United States quickly, but what if we could take the key elements of that experience and digitize it? And instead of having screens be an alienating device in people’s lives, really make that flip and have them be a connective experience, and so we think that rowing is actually one of the few things that can make your screen into a connective experience.
20:06 MK: And did you always know how you were going about creating that experience? Because it’s definitely very challenging. When you look at Peloton for instance, right, they’re not trying to recreate the experience of cycling outdoors. Why they probably could have tried to do that. Right? And here you are and yet you’re trying to do exactly that, with something that is still relatively similar in the concept at least.
20:25 BS: It’s definitely… I was lucky. There are some really, really smart people in Boston who are great artists and they were happy to join the team and excited. It’s a real challenge to capture that outdoor experience and to capture people’s personalities in a constantly changing environment where you never know is a siren gonna go by or is there gonna be a plane overhead, or what if a helicopter comes through or what if there’s a thunderstorm? And you still have to capture all of this really great story and have this connective experience. But it’s definitely… I wish I could take credit for that stuff, but it’s really the team here, they’re incredibly dedicated and genuinely inspiring to work with because they do such a great job of capturing that.
20:57 MK: And would you also actually say that somebody that really likes outdoor rowing is also automatically liking to use a rowing machine that’s indoor?
21:06 BS: Medium. There are about 200,000 people who row on the water in the United States, and there’s this really great company called Concept2. They’re based in Vermont, it’s owned by the Dreissigackers and they’re very nice guys. And they built the first really good indoor rowing machine. It’s called the Erg, and rowers have this love-hate relationship with it because you sit down on it, and it just gives you these numbers and it tells you if you’re fit or you’re not fit and it’s not very exciting. And it’s kind of like this, it’s like a gauntlet, it’s like a test. So if you’re a rower and you’re a really committed experienced rower, and in the wintertime or when you can’t get on the water, you get on the rowing machine and you embrace how boring and hard it is.
21:39 BS: So our machine is actually not boring at heart, so it’s kind of like it goes against that a little bit. And so, we don’t wanna replace the Concept2. People who row in the water should keep using the Concept2, we love that machine. I use one still. It’s really great, it’s… This is for people who don’t necessarily have access or who wants some help working out or who wanna be a part of a team. It’s really not that much for rowers.
22:00 MK: Got it. So it’s really more like for somebody that wants to have some level of that experience, but not really like the full experience, but it’s hard to really re-recreate that.
22:07 BS: Exactly right, well and if you live in Houston, the chance of you getting out on the water to go rowing is like zero. So we wanted to really make that experience accessible and so digitizing it and capturing the key elements. And you can’t just go out there with a camera. As I said, you really have to go out there with a lot of intention and also a lot of money because it takes a big crew of people to pull this together and make it work every single day.
22:27 MK: Got it, and how… For instance just to understand how would you say the experience differs from using a Hydrow, apart from having that immersive experience of having an instructor and so forth, but just using the rowing machine on its own. How would you say it differs from the one that you typically would find in a gym for instance?
22:43 BS: There are two key things, one it’s really quiet… There are three things really. It’s beautiful to look at, which is different, but it’s also it’s very quiet, it makes very little noise. And the most important thing is that the force curve, which is the resistance that you feel when you’re pulling on the handle, is adjustable. And when I say adjustable, it doesn’t just change in amplitude, it actually changes in shape, which it’s nothing you ever need to know unless you wanna geek out on force curves, but it makes it feel really different and if you have a sore back, we have a setting, so that you can use it with a sore back or if you’re 71 years old and you’ve never tried this before, we have a setting that makes you feel very comfortable. Or if you’re a 28-year-old triathlete who really wants to go hard, we also have a setting for that. Or if you wanna work just on your arms and do some bicep curls, we have a setting for that. So that variability is actually revolutionary and nobody’s done that with rowing machines before.
23:28 MK: And what inspired you to integrate some of these technologies into Hydrow’s first-generation product?
23:34 BS: We saw the potential and we didn’t wanna leave anything on the table and we wanted this to be a complete solution for people. So you don’t have to buy anything else, you don’t have to be a member at a gym, you can really have a complete experience with functional training and yoga and stretching, and then on the machine, you can use it for a variety of different things as well. So it really is… We wanted this to be the thing that people needed the most in their life and that they didn’t have to add on to that.
23:55 MK: Got it. And have you and your team ever built a product before? You have the rowing background, but did you feel challenged about building a physical product?
24:04 BS: That’s a really good question. You sound like a venture capital investor. So yeah, we definitely… I have built a couple of things, but only at a small scale. I had a boat project at Community Rowing where we built a boat, but the key thing here is the team. And so our chief production officer has built products in Asia for his entire career. He built products for Waterpik, and for iRobot, he built Roombas. He’s built lots of toys with Hasbro, so he’s very, very experienced with that. And then our Chief Technology Officer, this is his 10th start-up. And he actually was one of the first architects of relational databases back in the day. And so he’s run software teams that deliver product on time, and that works for his entire career, and everybody that we have on our team has really, really deep experience in their field. So basically, we have a software company, and we have a hardware company, and we have a content company and we were able to hire people at the very top of their field in each one of those companies.
24:53 MK: Great. How big is the team now?
24:54 BS: As of today we just passed the 40 mark.
24:56 MK: Wow, Yeah you must have been growing quite a bit then. So beyond obviously the product delivery in the next coming months, where do you see Hydrow is heading towards too? Are you already thinking about new services or new types of classes, or entire product?
25:11 BS: So one of the cool things about Live Outdoor Reality is that it is the perfect setup for augmented reality. And so we are looking at all of the technologies around augmented reality to be able to deliver that immersive experience, and I think it’s just a huge opportunity and the technology is not there yet, it’s not a great tool to work out with yet. Glasses get sweaty and you feel seasick, it’s not productive. So the screen is still the perfect choice, but in the next two or three years, we’re gonna be able to deliver that experience so you’ll be able to look over your shoulder and see the person you’re rowing with and it is gonna be the coolest. And our company is the platform that is built literally to be the best at delivering that augmented reality experience. And it won’t just be on the water, it will be climbing mountains and on bicycles and running marathons, it’s gonna be very exciting.
25:53 MK: Wow, Yeah, I can totally see that. It sounds super exciting. Any reason why augmented reality, like did you also look into VR for instance?
26:01 BS: Yeah, VR’s okay. It’s a blended thing and those terms are sort of broad-brush. And the important thing about augmented reality is that you can still feel parts of your environment, so you still feel connected and grounded but you can see other things in the world. And it’s gonna be kind of… If you moved the slider between augmented reality and virtual reality we wanna be not in a computer-generated world. We think that people need that experience of authentic connection to what’s actually happening in the environment. But they also need to be aware that they’re in a living room and not stumble over things or stub their toe. So it’s getting that blend right that people in that area are still working on. And I actually just got back from CES, and there’s some very, very cool stuff happening.
26:37 MK: Yeah, I think I saw like this one company that is doing, I think they’re called VirZOOM which is like a VR application for, I think, for indoor cycles, so to recreate different experiences like flying or riding on a horse, crazy things like that that are very disconnected from that actual experience of being on a bike.
26:57 BS: Yeah, right. No and it’s very gamified and it’s cool. They’ve been working on that for several years and they’re literally just down the street, four blocks away from us.
27:03 MK: That’s funny. So where do you see connected fitness going in general, like in the long run? ‘Cause we’ve been definitely seeing a lot of movement now towards having some of the equipment in our home and potentially even going less to the gym.
27:15 BS: Yeah, it’s definitely an open question for everybody. There are 25 million Americans who like to work out and spend money consistently, and there are another 25 million who spend money sometimes. And I think what’s gonna happen is that the new way to be cool is not to have a nice car, it’s to be healthy. And people understand that having a healthy container for their mind and body is really like… That’s like the ultimate luxury. And so we really… We wanna participate in that trend and help people feel better about their life. So how that evolves, connected fitness, we’re just getting started and that’ll be like 10 or 20 years of growth, I think at a very rapid level but how that plays into augmented reality and how people experience gyms in the future, I think Equinox and all of those big chains are thinking very hard about it. And there’s room at the very top, and there might be room at the very bottom, but that middle area seems to be emptying out pretty fast and people are having a hard time making ends meet if you do run a traditional gym.
28:03 MK: Yeah, I can definitely see personally speaking, how we’re seeing a trend towards A: Having something that’s accessible and convenient for me to use because people don’t wanna waste time, right? We all have limited time, we have busy lives, we have family and whatnot, and second to all we also wanna have fun. Having a workout can feel like a chore sometimes, and we already have one job in our life, let’s not have another job.
28:26 BS: I know, I know, we have this funny… When did recess become physical education class? It should be really fun, and if it’s not really fun, people don’t do it enough. So, we’re definitely… We feel like we’re on a mission from God to make that happen for people and touch with, everybody is responding in the way that we hope they would in 10 times greater volume than we expected.
28:46 MK: Yeah, that’s very powerful. I think you guys gonna make tremendous impact, and I’m sure you’re gonna have some great success in the coming months and years.
28:53 BS: I hope so, yeah, thanks a lot.
28:54 MK: Yeah, I just wanna finish off with a quick fire round. So I will ask you a number of questions and I really just want a quick answer from you. I don’t want you think really hard and give me a very elaborate answer, just like to get your feeling on a number of issues.
29:07 BS: Got it.
29:07 MK: So let’s start with an easy one. What did you have for breakfast?
29:10 BS: Nothing.
29:11 MK: Deliberately? Like are you fasting or…
29:14 BS: Nope, too much work to do, and I meant to stop for breakfast, and I didn’t have time.
29:17 MK: Got it. Any other… You mentioned already that you use Peloton, but are there like any other devices or apps that you use in health and fitness?
29:24 BS: I use Asana rebel, and iFit, I test… I’m a huge… I’m a fitness app junky, I use them all the time.
29:33 MK: Just ballpark, how many fitness apps do you have on your phone right now?
29:36 BS: Probably half a dozen, I’d have to look.
29:37 MK: Wow.
29:38 BS: Asana rebel is the I’m most interested in right now ’cause they have little… They do yoga and fitness stuff and I’ve been using them especially when I travel.
29:45 MK: Got it. And would you say you have introduced recently or maybe in the last couple of years a habit that has dramatically changed your life for the better?
29:53 BS: Started drinking matcha instead of coffee in the morning and it had a profound impact until I couldn’t take the taste of the fishbowl anymore.
30:01 MK: And what do you say about diets, are they useless or… Are there like diets that are worth following?
30:07 BS: Oh, there’s so much bad advice that sports science is not a very disciplined area. And the only way to really find your correct weight is to be aware but also do things that give you pleasure in the right amount, and it’s I think that you get there just by eating the food with the highest quality ingredients is so much more satiating, and just avoid any kind of processed sugar that you can and you’re gonna be so much healthier because your insulin levels are gonna be much more regulated. And your body’s not gonna create that kind of sugar all the time.
30:35 MK: Yeah, it sounds so easy and yet it’s really hard for a lot of us to follow that advice I think. It’s really overcoming that barrier in our minds.
30:43 BS: It is horrible. High fructose corn syrup is literally the worst thing ever invented, maybe not the worst. It’s up there with the nuclear bomb now.
30:49 MK: Speaking of, what would you say is one thing about fitness or health that most people get wrong in your opinion?
30:55 BS: They think that they have to do it too much to have an impact. Twenty minutes a day, and you can really change how you feel permanently.
31:01 MK: Speaking of change, do you have a book that you can recommend to our listeners that they should definitely read because it’s gonna have a good amount of impact on their health or fitness in general?
31:21 MK: Got it, and anyone or anything that you think has really influenced your life, but also how you actually ended up building Hydrow?
31:30 BS: I think I would… My favorite influence right now, it’s Jay Z and Beyonce, and watching how they go about creating a whole world and just how determined they are to create something. And there’s this amazing picture of those guys standing on either side of the Mona Lisa and you wonder who’s making out, just is the Mona Lisa benefiting from Jay Z and Beyonce or is Beyonce and Jay Z benefiting from the Mona Lisa? It’s really fascinating, but I love those guys very much.
31:53 MK: Oh, that’s an interesting influence. That was probably the least likely answer that I would have expected, but yeah, that’s super interesting. So yeah, thank you so much for coming on the show, Bruce, is there like anything else, like that you would like to share with our listeners, how can they learn more about Hydrow and you?
32:07 BS: Oh yeah, no, just, definitely come to our website, hydrow.com and take a look and any and all feedback we are very, very eager to hear from people and we take all the comments really seriously and we’re at that stage where we can implement them. So I really appreciate the conversation, it was a pleasure to talk.
32:22 MK: Awesome, well thank you so much for coming on the show.
32:24 BS: Okay, thanks a lot.
32:25 MK: Yeah, take care.
32:25 BS: Alright, bye bye.
32:26 MK: And that really brings our to show to the end today. I certainly had a great time talking to Bruce and thank you so much for tuning in and if you would like to read up on anything, we put everything in our show notes, as always on 20minute.fitness thanks again for listening. I’m your host, Martin Kessler and a big shout-out to our producer, Lilla Laczo. Bye.