For this month’s focus on Technology, I took the time to catch up with Kristina Björknäs who is the CEO of Quiske, a Finnish based technology company that manufactures and supports the Quiske Pod. Their technology is revolutionizing the way that rowing technique measured and analyzed by the rowing world, so I thought it would be a good idea find out more about their journey so far. Kristina is a Physicist and Entrepreneur with 15 years of experience of global business experience. She has a PhD in Engineering science and a great deal of experience working in the technology/research and development field.
What Is Your Rowing Background?
I learned to row almost 20 years ago in England when I was doing my PhD at Oxford University and I have some very fond memories from that time. Cycling through pouring rain to early morning workouts, in the eight, rowing through fog, birds all around making the boat feel like it’s flying. At one point I was sitting in bow seat and it really did feel like flying. I remember how good it felt winning blades at summer eights. So lots of lovely memories. I also did pick up single sculling in England from a lovely coach I had. When I returned to Finland, which is where I’m from originally, I joined our local rowing club and I’ve been rowing and training and racing in a number of different crews and boat types since then. I’ve also picked up a Finnish traditional wooden boats and most recently I’ve started rowing coastal boats.
My next race is this 58 kilometer Sulkavan Suursoudut race, which we’re doing in double coastal boats. So, fingers crossed that that goes well.
Side note: Since recording this interview Kristina competed in this race and has posted a blog about her experiences if you would like to read that.
Since the lakes and the seas are frozen in Finland for a large chunk of the year I also do quite a bit of indoor rowing, especially on the dynamic RP3. In fact, I even represented Finland at the world games in indoor rowing in Poland last summer, but that was on the Concept2. The Quiske RowP System gives analytics on both the RP3 and the Concept2.
What gave you the idea to create the Quiske pod?
The idea for the Quiske Pod really came from the fact that there was no easy system to measure rowing technique. The systems we were aware of were expensive and cumbersome to install and they lacked cloud analytics and we realized because we had a team of passionate rowers who were also physicists, that we can create a simple system. So we just started doing it.
How long did it take you to produce a working version?
We started working on this in September 2015 and then it took about a year and a half for us to have a working version. We are now selling globally online. But we are still working on improving the system.
What lessons did you learn along the way?
I’ve learned some lessons regarding entrepreneurship, but also regarding product, I’ve learned that really keeping it simple is essential. You shouldn’t try to create something super complex straight away because then you might risk creating something that no one wants. So a lesson we’ve learned is really to listen to the customer and to create something that’s simple to use.
What are the advantages of using the Quiske Pod system?
The Quiske Pod system is hassle free. It’s easy to install, doesn’t take long, less than a minute, and then you get instant feedback. After your session you can upload the data to the cloud where you can analyze your technique in detail. You can also compare your technique with others in your crew. So the advantages would be the simplicity to install, the instant feedback, and the cloud analytics not only for your own technique but also for comparison with others in your crew. Then, of course the system works not only on water but also indoors. It’s a fully fledged system for analyzing your rowing technique and rhythm both on water as well as indoors.
Do you have any examples of teams or athletes that have used the system to gain performance benefit?
We’ve had some very good feedback regarding our system. There was one crew in England who said they won a gold medal in their double due to the fact that they had been using two of our pods to synchronize their legwork. It’s always nice to hear of examples like that, but we also have satisfied customers who have been able to work on their indoor rowing rhythm by using our system.
What plans do you have for the future of the Quiske Pod and accompanying software?
The Quiske RowP Pod has recently come out as a new version which is splash proof and quite durable. The earlier versions we 3D printed ourselves and the software is evolving. We have recently started working on the iOS version of the app and we are also improving the data visualization. This visualization, especially for indoor rowing technique and the RowP app, will be available later this summer. The IOS version will be available possibly in September and we will also improve on the data visualization in our cloud service. Those improvements would be available also during this summer. In fact, we’ve also published our roadmap and we are taking feedback from customers and rowers on what they would like to see next. So the roadmap is available for anyone to read published on our website.
If someone is interested in using or finding out more about the Quiske Pod, how would they go about doing this?
Please contact us directly. My email is email@example.com. You can also reach out to us via open communication on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. We really love hearing feedback on our product because we want to keep developing the product into a direction that’s useful. So we want to make it useful, productive for rowers. That’s why we want to feedback.
Our website is www.rowingperformance.com. You can download our guide to measuring rowing technique, which has lots of details on our system. If you are Finnish, we also have a website in Finnish. It’s https://www.quiske.fi/, I look forward to hearing from you and please get in touch. Thank you.