The Lead Summit Speaker Spotlight:
Bruce Smith, Founder & CEO of Hydrow

This week on The Lead Speaker Spotlight Series we sat down with Bruce Smith, Founder & CEO of Hydrow. For those not familiar, Hydrow is revolutionizing the rowing industry with its state-of-the-art rowing machines that bring the on-water experience to your home, delivering a fully immersive, live-streamed workout experience.

In this discussion, we spoke to Bruce about his entrepreneurial journey, the inspiration behind Hydrow, emerging fitness trends, how he likes to shop, and more. Read the full spotlight below!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Bruce. Can you tell us about your professional journey, and what ultimately led you to founding Hydrow?

My career is centered on my passion for rowing and making the benefits that rowing offers – whole health and a tangible connection to community – accessible to all. As a US National Team coach, I was fortunate to work with the Lightweight Eight, who earned a Bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships, and many other crews across 10 different World Championships.

As Executive Director of Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI), I helped expand CRI into the world’s largest public boathouse, and we provided rowing education and training to tens of thousands of people, from complete novices to the most experienced elite athletes.

The idea for Hydrow came from my desire to replicate the unique experience of on-water rowing and make it accessible, helping people feel more connected to one another and live healthier lives every day.

How has the home fitness industry evolved in recent years, and what trends do you see shaping its future?

The at-home fitness market has been in a period of significant transition in the last few years, underscored by increased competition from new entrants who were spurred on by COVID.  Consumers have an increased awareness of the need to approach wellness from a holistic perspective and that needs to be tailored to each person slightly differently.  

There have also been shifts in consumer habits as people continue to search for new ways to improve their overall health while balancing other factors. Time is precious and that puts pressure on brands to deliver efficient workouts and new opportunities to stay healthy. We see these trends propelling the home fitness industry as one of the key building blocks to a healthy life.

At Hydrow, we’re leaning heavily into data and content to deliver personalized workouts that fit seamlessly into customers’ lives. We are continuing to realize our vision for whole health and we’re adding the next critical modality for overall fitness, which will be resistance training. I’m very excited that we acquired variable-resistance company Speede earlier this year, which will enable us to bring new strength products to market soon.

At the Lead Summit in July, you will be discussing building brands that outlast trend cycles. Can you give us a sneak peek of your thoughts on the topic?

Hydrow has made several strategic moves that have put the company in a strong position to navigate challenges and emerge as the connected fitness leader built to outlast trend cycles. The single most important north star for Hydrow is our commitment to always deliver the best workout available in the world. That’s why we started with rowing as a modality: it is the most efficient workout, the kindest on your joints, and a lifetime activity that serves all of the pillars of whole health in the most efficient way possible.  

We’ve also prioritized storytelling for our brand, and one of the best examples of a significant partnership focused on storytelling is the George Clooney-directed film “The Boys in the Boat” and the docuseries produced by David E. Kelley, “Hope In The Water.” As a result of these partnerships, Hydrow helped to tell a powerful, positive story, and we can continue to earn our members’ trust in the marketplace.  

The combination of a clear brand promise to our members and a commitment to sharing powerful stories has propelled Hydrow ahead of the other brands in our space who are confined to connected fitness machines and dance-party-in-your-home experiences.  

Like all of us, you are looking for those special shopping experiences. Can you share a recent and memorable shopping experience (online or in-store) and what made it special?

While a lot of pundits have declared direct-to-consumer a dead channel, one of my measures of a brand’s success is its ability to transform the medium of the internet to capture the essence of its brand story.

One of my favorite surprise-and-delight moments comes on the Hermes website. Their load times are nothing to brag about, but it doesn’t matter because the “circle of death” has been replaced with a dynamic and animated horse. A simple yet engaging detail that transformed the D2C experience.

This was the inspiration for the Wave of Color that we brought to market; recognizing that black and silver don’t pop off the screen, I was searching for a way to capture the joy behind the Hydrow brand on our website in a “show-don’t-tell” way, and offering machines in a rainbow of colors has given us an opportunity to animate all kinds of moments that engage customers and lead to higher CVR.  

Join Bruce at The Lead Summit, July 10-11 in New York City!

Brand and retail attend free!

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