Fun is key with this fit­ness app

Fit­ness start-up FitKey is ideal for in­di­vid­u­als who want to stay ac­tive and love va­ri­ety, but don’t want to com­mit to a gym con­tract.

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peo­ple who want to keep fit but do not nec­es­sar­ily want to get locked into a lengthy gym con­tract can now use an app to find and at­tend var­i­ous classes at in­de­pen­dent gyms and stu­dios in their ar­eas, with­out hav­ing to sign up for mem­ber­ship at these venues.

Start-up FitKey is a mo­bile app for peo­ple who pre­fer a var­ied fit­ness reg­i­men. Users reg­is­ter on FitKey’s web­site (at a monthly sub­scrip­tion of R495 that can be cancelled at any time), and can then browse through the va­ri­ety of classes avail­able in their area. Users gain ac­cess to an un­lim­ited num­ber of classes at dif­fer­ent fit­ness stu­dios, says co-founder Evan Walther.

The app, avail­able on iOS and An­droid, al­lows peo­ple to find and book classes us­ing their phones. “[They can] do it quickly and eas­ily, whether they are at work, or at home, or even trav­el­ling.” They can search via lo­ca­tion, type of fit­ness and time. In­di­vid­u­als can book as many classes and ac­tiv­i­ties as they want, with a max­i­mum of three classes at each stu­dio per month. If they want to at­tend more classes at a spe­cific stu­dio, they have to pay the stu­dio di­rectly for ad­di­tional classes, ex­plains Walther.

US-born Walther de­scribes him­self as a “for­mer fat kid turned fit­ness en­thu­si­ast”. Af­ter mov­ing to Cape Town two and a half years ago, Walther tried to stay fit by re­search­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to do in his area. Over time he learnt about dif­fer­ent fit­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, such as pad­dle board­ing, CrossFit and trail run­ning.

When his job as a con­sul­tant for Springleap ended, Walther looked for an­other rea­son to re­main in South Africa. He part­nered with Joshua Shimkin, and to­gether they de­vel­oped FitKey as a way to help South Africans find a fit­ness life­style that keeps them happy, he tells fin­week.

FitKey is tar­geted at peo­ple who want to be fit, but get bored with their rou­tine. “They know fit­ness is some­thing they need to do but they want it to be more fun and in­ter­est­ing,” he says.

Oth­ers who might ben­e­fit from FitKey are peo­ple who want to make fit­ness part of their lives, but don’t know where to start. It is in­tim­i­dat­ing for some peo­ple to go to a gym and be pres­sured into a year-long con­tract, says Walther. “FitKey gives in­di­vid­u­als the op­por­tu­nity to try out dif­fer­ent things, with­out hav­ing to make a com­mit­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, FitKey is cur­rently pop­u­lar with women, and mostly with young pro­fes­sion­als aged be­tween 25 and 50.

First launched in Cape Town in July 2015, the app has since ex­panded to Jo­han­nes­burg and Pre­to­ria. There are also plans to op­er­ate in Dur­ban by the end of the year, says Walther. Over 210 stu­dios are regis­tered with FitKey and the app has more than 2 000 users. Walther says they are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing growth of be­tween 15% and 20% per month.

So far mostly small, in­de­pen­dent stu­dios are regis­tered with FitKey. Walther says some users still have gym con­tracts with big­ger gym chains, but also choose to use FitKey. Yet other users have left their gym con­tracts in favour of FitKey.

One of their pri­mary goals is to help in­de­pen­dent gyms and stu­dios im­prove their busi­nesses, and get more traf­fic to op­ti­mise their time and space, says Walther. The idea is not to com­pete with any sort of fit­ness ac­tiv­ity, but rather to ex­pand the fit­ness mar­ket. “We are be­com­ing a fit­ness mar­ket place that makes it eas­ier for peo­ple to de­fine things they love to do and make it eas­ier for them to book, and eas­ier for them to pay.”

A long-term goal for FitKey is to be “the glue” or “mid­dle­man” be­tween in­de­pen­dent gyms and stu­dios and their cor­po­rate coun­ter­parts. “We want in­de­pen­dent gyms and stu­dios to be able to re­ward in­di­vid­u­als in the same way that larger gym brands do, by part­ner­ing with med­i­cal aids and banks,” he says. So far, FitKey has a part­ner­ship with Mo­men­tum Mul­ti­ply, where mem­bers get 25% off their sub­scrip­tion fee.

FitKey, which now con­sists of a team of seven, gen­er­ates rev­enue from its sub­scrip­tions. Stu­dios do not pay to be regis­tered with FitKey. At the end of each month, FitKey makes a bulk pay­ment to these stu­dios af­ter tal­ly­ing class book­ings, ex­plains Walther. Stu­dios look­ing to reg­is­ter with FitKey go through an ap­pli­ca­tion process. “It gives us a chance to get to know them and if the stu­dio will be a fit for our sys­tem and our cus­tomers,” he says.

When Shimkin and Walther first started out, they had to find soft­ware de­vel­op­ers for their prod­uct. “Skilled de­vel­op­ers in South Africa are in huge de­mand; there are not enough of them,” ex­plains Walther. Co-founder of the mo­bile pay­ment app SnapS­can, David Ru­bin, joined the team as chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer.

“FitKey gives in­di­vid­u­als the op­por­tu­nity to try out dif­fer­ent things, with­out hav­ing to make a com­mit­ment.”

Joshua Shimkin Co-founder of FitKey

Evan Walther Co-founder of FitKey

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