About Time You Met: Alister Rollins, Founder of MoveGBBy Angelica Malin
Originally founded in Bath in 2013, MoveGB are now one of the fastest growing fitness companies in the world. MoveGB allows you to discover 1,000s of venues and activities across London including yoga, HIIT, climbing and more all on one, user friendly platform. We chatted to founder Alister Rollins about fitness trends, MoveGB’s end goal, and advice for budding entrepreneurs:
What was your background that led you to work within the fitness industry?
I have always enjoyed being active, but don’t think I ever imagined myself working specifically within the fitness industry. I’ve always been interested in business and solving problems, which led me to start my first business – TRP (The Retention People). TRP was, and still is, the fitness industry’s leading data analytics and loyal solutions provider. When I sold the business we were analysing 15 million fitness consumer’s behaviour across 1,000s of gyms and studios around the world. The idea for MoveGB came for seeing that the industry is a fraction of the size it should be due to high churn. I had a deep understanding of what keeps people active and how to solve this: unite the industry to offer seamless variety and convenience.
Can you explain what MoveGB is and why Londoners need it?
MoveGB is an activity membership that unlocks 1,000s of fitness venues across the UK, giving the user unlimited access to mainstream gyms, boutique studios and more, all under one monthly membership. We now have over 300,000 users and more than 6,000 physical activity providers, making us the largest activity membership platform in the UK. Our mission is to provide a service that lets users live more energy filled lives through following passions and finding new experiences. Offering variety and convenience to the consumer is at the core of what we do, as we know this is the key to staying active for life.
I believe that happiness comes from discovering things that your mind and body love. London is packed full of amazing experiences and diversity and your workouts should be no different. MoveGB is here to expose all the awesome activities London has to offer; you can mix it up by attending different venues each time, or use the same venue as much as you like. There are no restrictions, no barriers, just the freedom to find activities to make you feel awesome!
How did you come up with the idea in the first place?
My previous business gave me a deep understanding of fitness behaviour. I started MoveGB to create a service that will keep people active for life. If you ask anyone if they want to be active and healthy for their entire life, they’ll say yes. However, when you look at the businesses that serve this aspiration (the fitness operators), they only keep their customers for a few weeks. In fact the average fitness customer stops attending around 12 weeks after joining.
I believe the world needs to be more purposeful when creating powerful behaviour changing technologies. I created MoveGB to use the power of data and technology in order to help us all live long healthy and happy lives. Being physical and socially active are the key to this.
How does MoveGB differ from other activity membership platforms such as Class Pass?
I think we’re the only business tackling the core problem of the industry: retention. Whilst other businesses are playing to the consumer’s desire for the next new thing or pulling the demand with discounted prices, we focus on the long game – sitting above this – removing restrictions to ensure people stay active for life whatever the latest trends.
What sets us apart is that we work in collaboration, not competition, with our partners. We work with all sorts of activity providers across the UK; from multi-club gyms like Virgin Active to climbing walls and boutique studios. Our business model allows the consumer to have freedom of movement with unlimited access, whilst the partner still receives 100% revenue… thus creating a mutually beneficial platform to all parties.
What do you love most about London’s fitness scene?
I love London and want everyone who lives there to explore the amazing range of activities this great city has to offer, and make it super easy to try them out, all under one membership. The city is packed full of opportunities, choice and diversity and your workouts should be no different. We have over 1,200 operators available on MoveGB in London and 100s more signing up each month. It’s important to us to ensure these amazing operators get discovered. People aren’t designed for a pre-boxed fitness plan, they need activities that you enjoy… like, REALLY enjoy!
What has been your proudest moment since launching MoveGB?
I think it’s that we’re achieving what we set out to do – make a difference to people’s lives and that’s shown through 300,000 of Movers using our service already. A few people have connected with me over the years with really moving turnaround stories pulling themselves out of depression using exercise and crediting MoveGB for helping them. These are the moments that make setting up a brand like MoveGB worth it! Alongside this, being named the UK’s 3rd fastest growing business in the Deloitte Fast 50 and listed within the Sunday Times Tech Track 100, were definitely big highlights.
What do you love the most about what you do?
People and problem solving. I love seeing how driven, passionate people can get such satisfaction and growth from working on a difficult problem with purpose. I believe an organisation’s role is to look after the happiness of its dependants, including myself, and that comes for really caring and developing everyone in the team. We challenge what work is at MoveGB, including when you work and where.
You were recently named within the Sunday Times Tech 100 – what does the future look like for MoveGB?
We are continuing to work hard to become the trusted service for people’s health and wellbeing. We are executing a UK roll out and planning expansion into other areas (we currently have a pilot in US and China).
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started off?
How long it takes to really nail a scalable business. Building a marketplace platform has been a lot more challenging than my previous business as you effectively have two entire businesses in one. This is due to having to manage the full customer life-cycle of both sides of the market and when they meet you have complexity in choice architecture, and managing the huge range of diverse offerings both in price points and actual services. I am lucky at MoveGB to be surrounded by very smart, passionate and driven people constantly working on these challenges.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Have a true purpose that you are passionate about, and then check the market is big enough to sustain a good business if you solve this big problem. Don’t do this to make money; you won’t stick through the rough times if money is your only motivator, and don’t trick yourself by trying to fit a purpose to an idea you think will make money – purpose must come first. Then build a real business so you can self sustain the long and difficult road to solving this big problem you are passionate about. Whatever you do don’t get roped into the hype of fund raising, if your engine is leaking fuel when you put your foot down it will leak faster, and you will become dangerously addicted to filling the tank the further you get into the race.
What fitness trends are you seeing this year?
There’s definitely a strong movement towards finding activities that don’t feel like your everyday workouts, which means small, independent operators with unique offerings are having their moment. Some of our most popular partners include climbing, parkour, team training in the park, handstand classes, belly dancing, etc. These partners are injecting the playfulness back into exercise – getting the heart pumping whilst having fun – which is the ultimate key for retention!
Where do you like to work out in London?
I love trying unique classes and recently had a great rejuvenating session at Chroma Yoga, our minds really do get impacted by lighting. Boutique fitness get a lot of press at the moment, but there are other hidden gems like Golden Lane Leisure Centre. They are nestled in the centre of London (Barbican) and the whole centre is streaming with daylight plus a newly refurbed gym, massive swimming pool, tennis courts and a schedule of classes, so something to suit every mood.
For more information on MoveGB, visit their website here.