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Gyms are one of those services that start debate. Maybe it’s because a lot of us don’t cherish the thought of visiting them, but their membership terms can seem unreasonable.

And of course you have to trawl through their individual websites, as Matt Owen has done previously.

PayasUgym.com is a start-up that aims to make gym day passes easier to obtain, giving flexibility to the gym goer.

Graeme Horne was the first employee at hungryhouse.co.uk, and has just left after seven years to join PayasUgym.com, based in London. I spoke to Graeme and CEO Jamie Ward.

In one sentence, what is your product/service?  

Graeme: 

PayasUgym.com is a marketplace that offers day-passes, flexible fitness offers and memberships at about a third of the gyms and health clubs in the UK.

What problem(s) does it solve?

Graeme:

What we do is make it easier for people who want to get off their bums and get active to just do it. A stat that struck me when I joined PAYG was that there are more lapsed gym users in the UK than current gym users.

What we see from our research is that one of the biggest barriers to people getting started or re-started at the gym is that the traditional model of yearly membership doesn’t work for everyone.

With the flexible model we’re rolling out into gyms across the UK, there’s no financial commitment to getting started… so that’s one less excuse! Making day-passes available at gyms across the UK gets people back into the gym in the simplest possible way, without making people feel they’ll be pressured to sign a membership as soon as they walk through the door.

At the same time, each visit generates revenue for the gym. A lot of day-pass users do find that they maintain their motivation. Once they’re using the gym a few times a week naturally some will consider taking a membership out.

In that way it’s a source of good quality membership enquiries for the gyms. But flexibility makes the gym work for more people. We have a lot of less frequent gym users; they go 2-4 times per month, so a membership doesn’t really make sense.

We also have a lot of heavy gym users; they have a membership elsewhere, but don’t ever want to miss a work-out. Using whatever gym, wherever they are really suits them – especially if they travel for work.

payasugym search engine

What are your immediate goals?

Jamie:

The first half of this year is about two things. Firstly, we want to cover all the bases with our product – that means offering day-passes, memberships, and fitness class bookings. 

Secondly, we’re just closing our first VC round having been angel backed to this point. Our VCs will expect us to prove that we can scale the business cost effectively through marketing, and really prove that putting more money into the model is going to grow a valuable business with a nice ROI.

What were the biggest challenges involved in building the tech or your team?

Jamie: 

Finding superstars who have the experience to run and grow departments, who want to take a wage cut and join a company at this riskiest time ever can be a challenge! We spent almost three years finding the right marketing director and finally we found Graeme Horne, formally of hungryhouse, who is an ideal fit for us.

In terms of the systems we’re currently entering our biggest challenge yet by building an end-to-end class booking system for our gym partners.

It will be the first ever product that offers a complete booking system to the gyms that is linked to a consumer marketplace. We love a challenge!

How will the company make money?

Jamie:

We take a commission on the sale of day-passes through our site. We’ve also just launched a membership enquiry function, and with class bookings coming in the first half of this year as well, we have plenty of additional sources of revenue on our roadmap.

'gyms near you'

Who is in your team?

Jamie Ward and Neil Harmsworth are the founders and worked together previously before becoming disillusioned and quitting their jobs in the city and setting up PayasUgym.

Claudio Pinto the Portuguese ‘grumpy genius’ is our Head of Development, he takes no prisoners and if code isn’t efficient it doesn’t happen. Thom Cunningham is our Head of Operations and his small team deal with 1,700 gyms which is why he now looks five years older than he actually is.

The ops team maintain customer service at an incredibly high standard expected of a much larger business. Then there is Graeme Horne who has recently joined and whose brain works at a million miles per hour, while maintaining an incredibly calm exterior! He looks after our marketing.

There are 20 of us in total and we’re growing our team every month as the demands keep growing!

Jamie and Graeme from PayasUgym.com

Where would you like to be in one, three and five years’ time?

Jamie:

Our immediate goal is to develop our product to offer a complete fitness solution fulfilling customer’s needs for gym sessions, membership and fitness classes. In the medium term we will take the complete proposition to other region around the world.

I’d like to think in three to five years’ time we’ll be operating in a number of the largest and fastest growing fitness markets in the world.

Other than your own, what are your favourite websites / apps / tools?

Graeme: 

One of the best apps I’ve used is Drivenow, BMWs car sharing app in Berlin. It’s 30c per minute, so short errands are really cheap, but the real amazing thing is you can pick up a car anywhere, leave it anywhere (within the city limits), and if you want to park it up but keep it reserved it’s only 10c per minute.

You don’t have to take it back to where you picked it up from, and honestly, it’s much cheaper and easier than taking a taxi or owning a car.

Moving back to the UK and taking a look at how Zipcar works has made me realise just how far ahead the car sharing in Germany is. It may be due to the parking restrictions in London rather than Zipcar, but from my perspective their service doesn’t give me what I want – one way journeys.

Jamie:

Having a young family, I use Lifecake for keeping the extended family up to date on a daily basis of how the kids are growing.

Ben Davis

Published 10 March, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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