In 2010, EGYM took part in the Munich Business Plan Competition, and the BayStartUP investor network provided support in the first financing rounds. Since then, the company has grown rapidly – despite various challenges.
Mr. Roesch-Schlanderer, you started out in 2013 as an innovation driver in the fitness industry and broke entire new ground for your customers in this area. What was special about your solution back then?
The idea for EGYM came from our personal experiences as gym-goers. We quickly saw during our gym visits that these training offers were not suitable for the mass market. There was a lack of orientation in all aspects: Which machines should I go to, how do I set them up, how much weight do I need to train with, how long and how often? In short: far too many new studio customers like us are failing right at the beginning – by the way, to this day – because the training is not personalised for them and they are not taken sufficiently by the hand during the training. But above all, most of them simply don't enjoy training. People go to the gym to do something for their body or their health, but in the end, for many, training is as exciting as playing football without counting goals.
We wanted to change that, and the only way to do that is with intelligent and digitally networked training equipment that instantly recognises the exercisers and automatically adjusts all the equipment. We were the first to tackle this with our software-based approach.
How has the market situation changed in recent years?
Fitness studios are no longer analogue islands. People have smartphones, their lives are increasingly digital, even modern home equipment is networked. Gyms can no longer remain on the sidelines if they don't want to be left behind. Corona has significantly accelerated digitization, also because health-oriented training is extremely important for the members and they simply want to be sure that their training is beneficial.
You took part in the Munich Business Plan Competition in 2010. What happened back then?
At that time, Carsten Rudolph had advised us on a number of issues and provided access to various meetings. That was very instructive for us, and that is why we then also participated in the MBPW.
How did the competition help prepare you for market entry?
It was very valuable for us to think through our planned business model from A to Z within a clearly defined framework. It was less about the concrete business plan itself and more about highlighting individual input factors and seeing what impact they have on the plan.
Did the expectations from your business plan come true at that time?
Many things worked out, some did not, and other things were added. However, it remains to be said that we benefited greatly from being able to think all this through neatly via the MBPW.
What were the main milestones of your company following the competition?
I am particularly proud that since our founding in mid-2010, we have continuously brought innovations to the market that make our customers and their members more successful. At the end of 2012, we delivered our first fully electronic strength equipment to fitness studios. They were always online, networked with each other and recognised every user – a real sensation.
Over time, we continued to develop new software-based training methods and goals, including explonic training to increase speed, a training programme specifically for type 2 diabetes patients and, a year ago, at the start of the pandemic, our Immunity Boost programme, which strengthens the immune system. Then we developed various apps for members, trainers and the studios - for optimal and individualised care. And via our EGYM Cloud, we now also connect devices from many other leading manufacturers, meaning training on these devices or with these apps is just as easy as on EGYM products.
A few weeks ago, we finally launched our EGYM Fitness Hub. It is a kind of centrepiece in fitness and health facilities and cuts the time for onboarding new members from 20 to just two minutes. In addition, it regularly measures the training progress, easily comprehensible displayed on a large screen. For the first time, the Fitness Hub makes it possible to measure mobility. We also record the development of cardio, strength and metabolism and can now give all exercisers a very precise and comprehensive indication of their training success, their so-called BioAge, in the Branded Member App.
Our investors honour this and have so far provided EGYM with over 130 million US dollars. The development of internationally competitive software requires extremely high investments. But it has always been our ambition to be a global company. And with presences in all important European markets and in the USA, we are heading in the right direction.
Retrospectively, which situations were the biggest challenges for you as a founder?
Right at the beginning, a competitor sued us for alleged patent infringement. At that time, we had not sold a single machine. We were one hundred percent sure that we had done nothing wrong or even unlawful, but these proceedings dragged on for more than three long years. At the beginning of 2016, we prevailed in full and in the final instance before the Munich Higher Regional Court. For us, this was both a confirmation and an incentive to continue at full speed.
Then, of course, it is always a big challenge to enter new countries. In this respect, we are very proud to be represented in the largest and most important fitness market in the world, the USA. We even have our own branch in Boulder, Colorado.
And that brings me to the current situation: the pandemic burst into the middle of our promising global development. The long-lasting, partly worldwide lockdown of our industry is certainly the challenge par excellence for all companies. In 2020, we made drastic decisions that I would make again and again. Instead of short-time work, we focused on reducing costs while strengthening our development activities. We have therefore recorded many orders in all segments in the course of 2021 so far.
Nevertheless, we are driving in a kind of "safety car mode" at the moment. But I firmly believe that the moment we ramp up our daily routine again, health-oriented facilities in particular will benefit quite strongly. And then EGYM will be at the forefront everywhere!
Photo credits: Benjamin Olszewski