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Alex and the Waterrower

Alex was introduced to the WaterRower by a friend in 1991, when the original product was manufactured in the USA. However, the machines were expensive, supply was unpredictable and the newly designed product suffered from flaws. Alex began to implement design improvements to enhance performance and lower the production cost. He negotiated exclusive selling rights throughout Europe and formed a new company, WaterRower (UK) ltd to sell the product in the UK and Europe.



In September 1993 he decided that he would have to begin manufacturing the product in the UK, incorporating design improvements that he himself had made. He raised £40.000 from two external investors. and researched the manufacturing options. He decided to set up an assembly operation with manufacture of components being sub-contracted. He found an ideal location for the workshop in Dorset, and the presence of many small businesses meant that all his suppliers would be within 15 minutes of the workshop.


One of the most expensive components, the polycarbonate tank, had proved problematic in the US, and Alex was delayed by a sub-contractor which indicated that it could produce the unit using a different system of vacuum fanning but this did not work and set the project back several months. Eventually Alex did overcome the problems that had faced the manufacturer and production began at the Dorset workshop in June 1994. Around 200 machines had been completed by 31 December 1994. Alex paid a royalty to WaterRower Inc, the owner of the patents.


The WaterRower was endorsed by UK Olympic oarsman Jim Walker, who rowed for the UK VIII in the Barcelona Olympics. Alex gave him a WaterRower in exchange for design assistance and helping to promote the product at various shows. Alex also commissioned a software company to write a programme to accept up eight simultaneous WaterRower data inputs. which could be used to simulate races.


The big rise to fame came later, when the product was showcased prominently in House of Cards. The WaterRower became an unlikely star in its own right. The unusual piece of exercise equipment, which features a circular tank filled with water at its front, has grown in popularity since it was first used by Kevin Spacey. The protagonist of the show who plays the part of politician Frank Underwood, regularly works out on the rower and even dreams about it. As a result, WaterRower tripled its production capacity, as reported The Wall Street Journal at the time.


Alex, who later sold his shares in the company, was instrumental to the product’s lasting success, and the product equally had a lasting effect on him: “I still carry with me an allergy to cyanoacrylate glue, which occurred after I had to be taken to hospital after an anaphylactic shock from over-exposure to glue whilst prototyping the tank!”


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