Gamified home rowing machine Aviron raises $4.5M

Along with a surge in connected fitness funding, it seems that rowing machines are really having their moment. In April, Ergatta announced a $30 million raise, last month, CityRow announced a $12 million round for its studios and home machines, and today, Aviron is announcing a $4.5 million round. A rising tide and all that good stuff.

The round, which includes Samsung Next, Formic Ventures, GFC and Y Combinator, follows $750,000 in early-stage funding. As we noted in January, the Toronto-based startup spent much of the pandemic (understandably) pivoting from gym equipment to connected home fitness. As more people look to rowing as a full-body alternative to cycling that’s much kinder on your knees than running, the company’s looking to differentiate itself through gamification.

Image Credits: Aviron

“We’re going a lot harder on the gamification side of things,” founder and CEO Andy Hoang tells TechCrunch. “And that’s the biggest differentiator between, say, us and a Peloton or a Hydro. They focus almost exclusively on instructor-led classes, while we focus on these high-intensity races and fully animated games, where you’re shooting bugs or running away from zombies.”

Last month, however, Peloton announced plans to compete more directly on the game side of things, with plans to roll out in late-2021/early 2022. The first product is a Tron-esque racing game. “Peloton created Lanebreak to complement instructor-led classes with a fresh new experience for members, giving them more ways to stay engaged and motivated with their workouts,” the company wrote in a release last month. Aviron says it’s trying to add something deeper.

“What makes Aviron really different is we’re not gamifying the fitness experience by added new graphics or achievements to the end of your workout,” says Hoang. “What we’re doing is gaming the fitness experience. What makes games really fun and exciting isn’t the bells and whistles. It’s the characters, it’s the story, discovering new things and unlocking them.”

Image Credits: Aviron

The company has already begun to increase headcount. Last time we checked in, Aviron was at 10 full-time employees. The company has increased to 25, roughly half of whom are involved in its game development team.

“We’re constantly looking for people. Content is our focus, and we’re hiring the right people for marketing and branding,” adds Hoang. “We’re doing a whole new rebrand.”