Few tech sectors have benefited more from the events of 2020 than home fitness. Interest in this category was quick as gyms were declared one of the bigger problem areas amid the global spread of Covid-19. Suddenly, home training was more than just a luxury.
For YC-supported Aviron, this was the ideal time to swivel. The Toronto-based startup had provided gamified rowing machines for the B2B market – especially for use in high-traffic environments such as hotels and apartment buildings. It’s still a small company with 10 employees and around $ 750,000.
Suddenly the company was trying to compete for market share against technology giants like Peloton.
Of course, Aviron’s sales have so far been much more modest than those of the bicycle giant. So far, the company has relied largely on word of mouth and has sold close to 1,000 rowing machines since it launched for the consumer market in July. The equipment costs $ 2,299 each – although you can find it online for less.
The company is working with an ODM to create the machine. And while it touts some nice touches like a silent nylon belt and 100 pounds of automatic electronic resistance, Aivron’s main differentiator is the software – specifically, a connected gaming experience via the built-in display. The monthly subscription costs anywhere from $ 20 to $ 30, and the company quickly realizes that you can cancel it anytime.
“Rowing uses 85% of your muscles,” founder and CEO Andy Hoang told TechCrunch. “It has little effect. There are a ton of benefits, but it’s super boring and super tough. When you combine it with high-intensity training, you have a death machine that almost no one wants to do. What better way to make it fun and exciting than installing video games on there? “
The system has six different training categories including real-time competition with other rowers. There are some introductory exercises to ensure beginners don’t injure themselves by jumping right into the row. By and large, however, the system avoids peloton-style classes.
“Our workouts are short,” says Hoang. “They are like 10-15 minutes. You might do one or two of these and in the end you feel like you are going to die because it’s so hard. Peloton is usually 40-60 minutes, a little less intense and with less resistance. And obviously it’s an instructor-led class rather than being chased by zombies. “