The idea

Bruce Smith, CEO & Founder of CREW, knows a thing or ten about rowing. His credentials include being the executive director of Community Rowing in Boston, coaching the US team in the World Rowing Championships, and winning the Head of the Charles. Rowing, along with entrepreneurship, has been a lifelong passion.

“I’m convinced that rowing is underutilized not just in health and fitness, but as a tool for creating greater human empathy and connection. So I wanted to figure out a way to popularize it, and instead of trying to build a bunch of boat houses, we decided to take the rowing experience mobile.”

“Originally, we thought we were just going to build the app, not the hardware. We expected the app to be used with existing machines. But the initial response from our investors was so positive about the app, the decision to make the rowing machine came quickly after.”

The machine itself is a thing of beauty (and we highly suggest you check it out on the website linked above), but the app provides the actual interactive experience.

“The idea was to broadcast live from the water; to provide an experience of live outdoor reality. We spent a lot of energy and creative process on how to capture the feeling of being outside, the emotional experience of being outside. We wanted to transfer that experience into 2D and to virtual reality.”

The design

When Bruce and his team connected with Rocket Farm Studios, they already had some idea of the task at hand.

“We had a medium idea of what the app should be and how it should function. But Dan really helped refine our vision of the app and gamify the experience.”

“The most difficult part is taking an analog experience and translating it to the digital world. And for us, the ability to iterate rapidly is important. We wanted to apply the agile development strategy to all aspects of the business and keep things on a short cycle so we could test and change quickly. That’s why it was great to work with Dan who was able to be nimble and able to change fast as we redefined our scope. We built a working app in record time.”

The mobile app evolved to not only live stream from the coaches as they rowed over the water, but also connect friends across the world so people can row together as a team. The app was also designed to work with touch screens, track personal metrics, keep leaderboards, and more. Additionally, the UI had to be easy enough to use during strenuous workouts.

“One of the coolest things is the ‘Netflix-esque’ interface where you select the workouts. Our philosophy was ‘quick free,’ meaning the UI had to be easy to use with no barriers. It’s incredibly simple to use, and making a simple UI is very difficult! Rocket Farm was amazing at staying true to this. Any time engineering would introduce a complexity, Dan would push back to stay simple and clean.”

“Our goal was to make the most beautiful workout experience in the world, and we did it.”

The outdoor reality rower

Nothing existed on the market that provided a realistic virtual rowing experience. So we partnered with Hydrow to create an app that brings you as close as humanly possible to rowing on a body of water.

the customer

"Our interactions with Dan and Rocket Farm were always easy and great. They helped us contextualize all the choices we were making with this app. Dan kept our road map clearly defined, but always prevented us from making an early choice that would have bit us later. In other words, we were able to get all our building blocks set in the right place from the very beginning."
"In all, it was an amazing experience! Completely friction-free relationship. Dan was super responsive and very experienced; he was able to keep everyone moving at top speed. Everyone was happy coming to work. Rocket Farm was one of the easiest partners we’ve worked with. It was all about the customer, with no ego involved. Dan never imposed his own agenda."