Why are exercise and sport so important to people?
You get fitter, build up your immune system, and do something good for yourself. There are so many options out there that you never have to force yourself to do something. People want to try something new, which is where Urban Sports Club comes in. We take the desires of a modern, flexible sportsperson and turn them into a product where you get whatever sport or wellness treatment you want, anytime, anywhere. It’s great stress relief, too, especially if you’ve been staring at a screen the whole day. A bit of exercise at lunchtime or a hearty workout in the evening is perfect for winding down and replenishing your energy levels.
What’s the current dynamic in the fitness sector?
The focus is on “faster, higher, further”, when it needs to be “more flexible, fairer, simpler”. These days, people need to not be stuck in contracts for years. It’s all about having access to different kinds of sports without spending lots of money or having to stick with it for a long time. For many people, one gym or deal is not enough, and they’d rather have variety that enables them to reach their athletic goals and advance their health. Exercise needs to be easy, whether you’re at home, the office, with friends, or in another city. If you can practise your favourite sport everywhere, it’s easier to stay motivated rather than giving up after a month and paying for nothing.
How did you come up with this business model?
My co-founder, Benjamin Roth, and I have been friends for a long time. We were both working as business consultants when we met, and bonded over the fact that we were travelling all over the country but didn’t have the chance to do our chosen sports, due to inflexible contracts and such. We developed a diversified model where for a monthly flat rate, you have access to more than 50 types of sports in thousands of gyms. We worked out a business plan and went to hundreds of Berlin gyms, sports clubs, and yoga studios, pitching our idea with a powerpoint presentation. We bootstrapped and kept growing, working day and night. A few months later we made our first part-time hire, moved into a bigger office, and the rest is history. We also established two new offices in Cologne and Munich alongside Berlin, and we have about 90 employees.
Would this model have been less successful 10 years ago?
I think our concept would have worked back then, but it would have been more complicated. We have a smartphone app for easy check-in to sports clubs. This technological advancement obviously makes it easier to create a digital ticket to the world of sport. It could have worked without an app as well, but payment would have been much more clunky and time-consuming, and you wouldn’t have had such a good overview of everything that we offer. Before kicking off in 2013, we had done a lot of prep work to prove that our concept would work.
Why does sport need to adapt to people, and not the other way round?
The whole world is changing and it’s changing a lot quicker than it used to before. People are now more mobile, more interconnected, they switch jobs more often and move to other cities. But also, if I stay in my hometown, I still want to try more things, try out different sports and do them in different places. The industry, whether it is the sports sector or media, automotive or any other sector, has to cater to the changing demands of the customers. If I don’t do that, somebody else will, and the customer will come to them. In general, people crave flexibility and companies have to adapt to this.
What kinds of people use the Urban Sports Club service?
We offer over 50 sports with over 2000 partners all over Germany and France. This means that there’s something for everyone when it comes to wellness and activities. You could do yoga today, cross-training tomorrow, then the next day go swimming. Put simply, Urban Sports Club is perfect for anyone who likes to be flexible in their workout routine. Depending on your location, you can do suspension training, get a massage, or go skiing in Bavaria. Our members are aged between 18 and 80, but most of them are mid-20s to late 40s.
What does Urban Sports Club do for its employees in terms of exercise and dynamics?
Occupational health management is becoming more and more important. Our motto is “workout life balance”, and in addition to our private customers, we also offer companies and startups ways to help their employees into an athletic, healthy lifestyle. Our own employees also get a free premium membership package. After a stressful day — which is sometimes the case with us! — you can treat yourself to a free massage or spa treatment. In our Berlin office, we have sports equipment, and we collaborate with sport nutrition manufacturers and other startups from the catering sector to offer food and drink to our employees. Once a month we have a team event, where we do sports together then go for dinner and drinks. The perfect workout life balance, if you ask me.