While finding a gym can be a struggle for consumers, gyms also struggle to bring in new members. Austin Cohen, founder and CEO of FlexIt, thinks his company can solve both problems by leveraging the same type of business model that companies like AirBnB and Uber employ. FlexIt is a unique app that allows potential gym members to pay-by-the-minute. Athletic Business sat down with Cohen to better understand exactly how FlexIt aims to be the Uber of fitness.   

What was the impetus for FlexIt? 

I've just observed trends as I've looked at companies over the years, and the type of access we're offering via FlexIt isn't access that currently exists in the gym space, but it exists in every other space. As I've paid attention to these trends, and as I've been a consumer of  of fitness services over the last few years, I saw this opening to deliver a flexible experience to consumers in a way that also empowers gyms to take advantage of unused inventory and generate new leads. There was never really an "ah-ha" moment, it was more of a gradual evolution, watching patterns in an array of industries, seeing what AirBnB and Uber did to the world and now things are going in the direction of pay-by-the-minute. This is just really a product of personal passion and following consumption trends. 

What's your value proposition when you talk to gyms about implementing your service? 

We come at no cost to gyms. We get set up at gyms. We're a lead-gen tool for them. We bring in folks who are going to pay by the minute at the gym. Our goal is to help the gym create the best experience possible for people. So when someone walks in using FlexIt, they don't sign any paperwork, they don't take a tour, they're not hassled by the front desk.

They walk in, effectively as if they were a member, scan the barcode at tech that we have set up at the front desk, and they go. And they can use all these facilities, amenities, take any of the classes at the facility, and they scan out when they're done. 

It brings the gym incremental revenues, and every time someone scans in at the gym, it's a lead for the gym, because the product should sell itself. Hopefully, we bring them new members. At the same time, we're doing a ton of marketing for the gym. They're our partners first and foremost, so our business is predicated on delivering value to them, but while we're doing that, we're providing them with great flexibility and optionality for the consumer who wants to sample. You know, he's changed his zip code, doesn't know any of the gyms in the neighborhood and wants to try out a bunch so that he makes a smart decision as to where he should join. 

What kind of rate of conversion to a full membership are you seeing for users of FlexIt? 

It's pretty early for those kinds of metrics, but we have a healthy number of conversions so far. We have some great anecdotes. For instance, we had one user who went to a gym, stayed there for a really long time — more than the monthly membership — and he converted on the spot. We've seen good conversions across the board. 

Do you set the rate for all gyms across the board, or does the gym suggest the rate to you? 

We work with the gyms as a consultant, but the gyms have the ability to set the rate. So it's a conversation. We make suggestions, but they make the call. And there's variety. So within a given chain, for example, not all facilities are priced the same. Market conditions, proximity to urban environments, all that affects the rate — not just across brands but within brands. 

What's the discovery process for the end user? 

You open the app, it defaults to a map very much like Uber. The hamburger menu's in the top left. You can see different gyms. You can click on the gyms, and directly check into the gyms. You can also look at the amenities section, hours of operation, types of classes. You can look at your workout history, you can see your most frequented facility, how many minutes you've spent at that facility. While you're actually working out, all you see is a timer and a rate meter. So you're on the clock. Our goal is since you're on the clock, you're not actually using app while you're on the clock in the same way your'e not using the app while you're sitting in an Uber. 

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.