Episode 170
August 8, 2023

Rowing, Resilience, and Reimagining Fitness

with Bruce Smith, Founder and CEO of Hydrow

About this episode

Sharing his extraordinary story today is Olympic-level rowing coach turned entrepreneur, Bruce Smith. Bruce has been self-sufficient since his teens and in this episode, we discover his journey to becoming the Founder and CEO of Hydrow; the rowing machine company connecting the indoor rowing experience to the magic of rowing on water. From breaking into hotels and churches in order to practice piano, he transferred his passion wholly into rowing. Tune in to discover what he finds so engaging about the sport and hear all about his inspiring personal journey and entrepreneurial story.

This episode is sponsored by

Exclusive Deals from Our Sponsors:

•     AWESOME CX by Transcom provides high touch, personalized customer experience services to consumer brands of any size! Email Lee at lee@stairwaytoceo.com to learn more about their award-winning services and Awesome Coffee Chats.

 In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

[01:02] Introducing Bruce Smith, the Founder and CEO of Hydrow.

[03:37] Bruce’s early days: Growing up in Canada with a schizophrenic mother, leaving home early, and supporting himself financially while pursuing music.

[11:16] How he supported himself in college; how he became a hustler by necessity!

[14:24] His journey from academia to entrepreneurship, real estate, and coaching.

[20:08] Bruce’s passion for rowing and his transition from rower to rowing coach.

[22:49] The mind-body connection associated with rowing and the addictiveness of synchronization.

[25:18] Bruce shares success stories from his career as a rowing coach.

[27:42] The genesis story of Hydrow; the rowing machine company connecting the indoor rowing experience to the magic of rowing on water.

[33:49] Hydrow’s impressive fundraising journey in the face of countless rejections.

[47:09] The company’s team structure, Bruce’s leadership approach, and Hydrow’s future goals!

 To Find Out More:

Bruce Smith on LinkedIn


Community Rowing, Inc.

Lee Greene on LinkedIn

Stairway to CEO

Stairway to CEO on Instagram


“[Entrepreneurship] is really hard but it's really satisfying. Honestly, I think it's the most fun thing you can do. It's like creating art that's worth the trouble.” [0:03:21]

“I got my driver's license the day that I turned 16 and I got in the car and I drove away and I basically never went back.” [0:07:40]

“I really do believe poverty is an amazing motivator.” [0:13:12]

“The power of the man is real and you’ve got to adapt and bend a little bit if you're going to be successful.” [0:17:28] 

“In the United States, especially in Chicago, it is a meritocracy. If you have good ideas, people embrace you with open arms.” [0:19:46]

“That moment of synchronicity – is wildly addictive.” [0:23:59]

“We wanted to take that smoothness and that analog feeling [of rowing on water] and translate it to a machine. So we had to reimagine how people think of our machines from the ground up.” [0:32:28] 

“You want to be sure that the people who invest in your company will be able to continue to invest in your company.” [0:38:54]

“I like bankers. They're the most socially capable people I've ever met.” [0:40:35]

“Overall, I've become an even stronger believer in investing in culture and – who you are.” [0:47:52]

Read the transcript

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