Gym of the future – Startup idea

I’d love to see someone get creative and disrupt the gym industry. It currently feels so stale. There doesn’t seem to be any creativity or innovation at all.

The Market

With a quick Google search I saw varied reports of the gym market being a $21.8 billion market, all the way up to it being a $78.2 billion market. In any case it’s sizable. There’s value to be delivered there, and ultimately money to be made.

How might someone disrupt this stagnant industry? Here’s my take:

Get creative with facilities

Instead of going with boring old rows of treadmills, and rows of elliptical machines, and small pocket of free weights route, why not mix it up?

I’d look around for some old abandoned supermarket/strip mall real estate. The inside of an old supermarket gives you quite a bit of room to play with.

I’d fill the space with an assortment of different sections. Of course there’d be an aerobic section, and a free weights section, but there would also be a small section for crossfit, and a small section for parkour, there would be a small bouldering/rock climbing section, in addition to multiple smaller yoga/pilate/dance rooms.

The idea here: attract a larger cross-section of customers than your typical gym.

I’d also figure out a way to keep the place open 24 hours a day (not novel these days, but important enough to mention).

Get creative with pricing

Every gym I’ve ever looked at has the exact same strategy when it comes to pricing. This is a huge opportunity for someone to come along and quickly differentiate themselves. Gyms know that for the vast majority of their customers, joining a gym is an idealistic impulse buy. They bank on it, and they price their services accordingly. Generally this involves yearly contracts, with penalties for breaking them early.

Here’s what I’d charge:

$5/visit, for the first 5 visits, then free for the rest of the month.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Immediately your gym caters to a long tail of users who would otherwise never step foot in a gym. This long tail of customers knows that they’d never benefit enough from a monthly membership subscription to make it pay off, so they never go to a gym. But with pay as you go pricing that all changes. They could come once a month, and pay just $5.
  • The $25/mo ceiling sets people at ease. Every trip they make to the gym after the first 5 visits makes them feel like they are cheating the system somehow. Like they’re sticking it to the gym owner.
  • Occasionally I’d enjoy working out with friends. This almost never works in practice though as it requires two people to be members in the same gym. With pay as you go pricing, working out with a friend becomes something you can do without much thought at all. All you have to do is arrange a time.

Get creative with onboarding

I’d rather get a root canal on multiple teeth than be forced to deal with having to sign up for most gym memberships. The experience is down right awful!

Not a lot would have to be done to make it even slightly better, but what if we shot for the moon? Here’s my thinking:

What if the entire process was self service, and what if signing up took less than a minute?

You walk in the door and immediately see a number of self serve stations. You step up to one. Pricing is clearly visible. A screen asks you to swipe your credit card. You do so. If this is your first visit, it asks for your email address (and that’s it). You’re done. You see a big welcome screen that says “enjoy your workout”.

At this point, your mind is kinda blown. This is remarkable enough of an experience that you feel like telling everyone you know.

What about fraud, you say?

What if someone comes in with another persons credit card who has already paid for 5 visits this month? That’s where a little technology under the hood comes in handy.

Every self serve station has mat, that while you’re swiping your card weighs you. A photo is also snapped every time you swipe your credit card. If someone comes in, swipes a credit card to trigger a free visit, and the weight is inconsistent with a range of weights for the card holders most recent visits, then an alert is sent to the iPhone of the attendant on hand showing the weight discrepancy, and headshot photos of the card holders last visit, along with this visit. The attendant can then “help” the customer set up a new profile for that credit card.

Get creative with retention

There’s loads you could do to introduce “runkeeper” like mechanics into a physical gym environment. You might also experiment with offering some sort of fitbit like tracking device for customers to use freely, helping them track activity within your gym. All of which you could make easy for people to share with their friends and family, and all of which you could use to generate triggers to help bring customers back regularly.

There’s the idea

Now someone go build it so I can give you my money.


I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at