With gyms closed and COVID-19 keeping most people indoors in 2020, many people turned to connected fitness companies, including Peloton, Mirror and Tonal, to get their exercise and attend fitness classes. But Peloton’s 30- and 45-minute classes don’t work for everyone’s schedule — and even if they do, it can be hard to get motivated.
“When I bought a Peloton, I found that I wasn’t really engaged,” said Andy Hoang, founder and CEO of connected rowing company Aviron. “It didn’t resonate with me personally.” What did resonate, though, was the connection of video games and exercise, which became the basis of Aviron.
Unlike Peloton or other at-home connected fitness devices, Aviron is focused on animated races and activities, not classes, in order to provide shorter, high-intensity workouts that people can enjoy.
“And because there is a lot more variety, we find that in a household, you have more people using it, versus a Peloton, which is usually one or two people who are using it,” Hoang said.
Given the size and prevalence of the spin exercise market, Hoang said it sometimes takes an extra push to get someone to try rowing, but he added that the exercise is quickly becoming more popular. Over 80 percent of people who buy an Aviron machine have never rowed more than twice in their life.
“The problem with rowing for the last 40 years is that it’s extremely challenging, it’s extremely boring, the machines that are out there … have been really old and loud,” Hoang said. “It just hasn’t been a great user experience.”
The spinning market, on the other hand, has “evolved like crazy” over the years, and that innovation is finally coming to rowing. All of Aviron’s top competitors are under four years old — Aviron itself was founded in 2018 — “so I think the rowing market’s going to get there,” Hoang said. “Not as big, but people see the value.”
Rowing Into the Future
Last week, Aviron announced $4.5 million in fundraising from Samsung Next, Formic Ventures, GFC, Y Combinator and others to help fuel the company’s growth. Hoang said the funds will primarily be used to grow the company’s headcount, which currently stands at 25, and to develop new games for the Aviron machines. “I believe if you create an amazing product, that’s the best way to grow and to sustain your company,” Hoang said.
The funds will also be used to strengthen the Aviron brand through marketing and adding more social features to the machines. “A huge part of what we want to do is to make the workout experience more enjoyable with other people,” Hoang added.
But Aviron has even more ambitions not covered by this latest fundraising round. Hoang said the company is already planning to raise its next round in the first quarter of 2022. “We’re just getting tremendous growth, and it’s been such a roller coaster ride,” he said.
The Connected Fitness Fixation
With the pandemic fading into the background for many people, investors have asked Hoang whether the connected fitness trend can continue. He’s confident that demand wasn’t driven by the pandemic — COVID-19 just accelerated things. Hoang pointed to Peloton, which went public in 2019 with a valuation of $8.1 billion.
The CEO added that Aviron is currently growing faster than it ever has, selling more machines in July than in any prior month, even as vaccination rates continued to increase across the U.S. “We feel that this trend is here to stay, and that we are offering a really unique product and experience that people want,” Hoang said.
This doesn’t mean the gym is going anywhere, though — Hoang said even he isn’t going to stop going to the communal workout centers, as they offer experiences and amenities that he can’t get at home.
“It’s a hybrid approach,” he said. “I’m always going to go to the gym because there’s the social aspect and all the equipment, but it’s not convenient to always have to go there.”