Riding in top cycling races like Ironman and La Vuelta, or just going up the nearest hill with a view. In the year of coronavirus, all this has been possible thanks only to the breakthrough technology of ROUVY, a Czech startup company. One of the leading global companies in indoor cycling today was able to manage the upsurge in clients from around the world thanks mainly to Google Cloud.
When the global pandemic forced us to stay at home, many of us searched for ways to maintain our lifestyle or escape the stereotype of four walls. This new normal dramatically increased interest in ways to stay active at home. Internet searches for home workout in March 2020 grew 700% compared to February 2020, and even today they have remained higher than before the start of the pandemic.
ROUVY, based in Vimperk, a little town in the Šumava Mountains of the Czech Republic, offers unique software for indoor cycling that uses virtual reality to bring real cycling routes to our homes. Naturally, during the pandemic the number of new customers from around the world exploded.
Making riding at home better
This original idea by brothers Petr and Jiří Samek was supposed to help professional cyclists train off-season. Just ten years ago, training in the winter was pretty boring. Stereotypical pedaling and staring at a blank wall or a TV. During their university studies, the brothers started developing a unique solution that would combine the ever more popular bike trainers with video content.
They started filming and digitizing the routes in their native Šumava and connecting them to GPS. Today, ROUVY offers its users a wide range of both iconic and lesser-known routes around the world that they can explore in virtual reality. In addition to a realistic simulation of the real world and real difficulty of the routes, they implement various 3D objects that take the indoor experience to the next level.
The outbreak of the pandemic proved that a cloud solution is the only solution
Although the company had performed very well since 2016, last spring brought a boom in demand for their product and for indoor cycling in general.
“In the last year, both the number of users and the number of activities have tripled. In peak times, the number of activities can sometimes increase up to ten times.”
Petr Samek - Co-founder and CEO of ROUVY
The outbreak of the pandemic proved that good preparation and a flexible infrastructure were key for ROUVY. For companies like ROUVY, it is difficult to predict when the number of users will start to grow sharply and it will be necessary to scale the infrastructure. In the end, the company was able to handle the upsurge in customers thanks mainly to Google Cloud.
"ROUVY allows cyclists to compare their performance in various virtual races, so the number of users rises rapidly at one point and after the race it drops again. “A cloud solution is a necessity for us also to ensure financial optimization, since users connect to the app in peaks. It wouldn’t make sense for us to permanently have a full infrastructure; we have to be able to rapidly increase the infrastructure at one moment and keep it there, say, for a day, and when the peak is over, scale back to the original size and optimize the cost,” explains Petr Samek.
Google offered the best terms
Transitioning to the cloud meant not only the ability to scale the infrastructure and optimize the cost, but also to handle other demanding tasks. The company uses the cloud to process large video files and for other data-intensive operations.
“In the past, we used data centers in the Czech Republic. When the cloud solution became more prominent, around 2018, we started searching for the best provider. We thought Google’s offer was the most interesting, since it offered modern, comprehensive services, connection to mobile apps, and most importantly, they communicated actively with us and tried to earn our trust,” explains Petr Samek.
To implement a cloud solution, ROUVY joined forces with Czech company Revolgy, a premium Google Cloud partner in the region. Revolgy has extensive knowledge of the local environment, and it was also historically the first partner of Google Cloud in the region, which means it has many years of experience with Google technology. The company is headquartered in the Czech Republic and has offices in Romania and Estonia, serving customers in many other European countries. And they're always looking for new talents who want to work with exciting technologies such as Google Cloud.
Establishing itself at the top of the list
International expansion has never been an issue for ROUVY. The company has an American partner, so it started operating in the U.S. before coming back to Europe - to the Czech Republic, but also to other cycle-loving countries like Italy, Spain, France, and the U.K. It would also like to establish itself in Asia, which is a huge and challenging market. In general, however, the company does not limit itself to individual countries; it sees itself as a truly global business.
It comes as no surprise that today, ROUVY is among the five best-performing indoor cycling companies in the world. According to its CEO, the plan for ROUVY in the next few years is to attack the top position, which is currently occupied by the American company Zwift. ROUVY does not focus exclusively on professionals; it also attracts hobby cyclists, so anyone can become a member of the ROUVY global community. One of the company’s great advantages is that it is well aware of its uniqueness, which lies in the unparalleled combination of 2D and 3D worlds and a strong connection to reality, which distinguishes the company from its competitors.
“Thanks to ROUVY, our users can have a similar experience as if they were riding the actual routes of the famous races, prepare for them, and maybe one day even participate in them. When building a product, our aim is always a real experience in the real world,” concludes Petr Samek.
This text was written in collaboration with the Google and Havas PR Prague team.