A skeleton key, in its most basic form, grants access to all doors that have that particular type of lock, which makes it easier for landlords and locksmiths to open doors for people who have lost their keys. FitKey is conceptually the same in that it opens doors for people, but doors to independent gyms.

Co-founder of FitKey, Evan Walther, was visiting South Africa on holiday in January last year. Being a fitness enthusiast, Walther wanted to keep fit and active while on holiday. He turned to social media and asked his friends for suggestions of where he could go to exercise.

Unfortunately the response Walther got from his friends and various online searches was not great, so he decided to sign up for a membership with a gym franchise that he had seen around town thanks to its aggressive marketing. “I joined the gym and signed onto a year-long contract, but it wasn’t long after that I discovered all these other amazing [fitness] things I could be doing. Before long, I realised I was spending R2 000 on fitness every month” Walther said while speaking to us at Leaderex.

A year later, Walther  and the team at FitKey have found a better solution.

FitKey links fitness enthusiasts, like Walther, to independent gyms and fitness studios for R499 per month. Whether a user wants to take a pilates class or lift weights, they are able to find a gym or fitness studio that suits their needs.

To sign up for the service, people need to request an invite which they can do on the FitKey website, at which point the startup will contact them to help set everything up and facilitate payment. From there, once it’s been confirmed that they’re in an area where the service is available and paid their membership, they are able to attend as many classes as they wish, just limited to three classes per studio.

Paid-up users simply log into the FitKey Android or iOS app and book a class; the app then gives the user an address and the relevant contact information.

At present the service is available exclusively in Cape Town, where FitKey has partnered with 45 independent gyms and fitness studios. There are of course plans to expand the service to other areas with a launch in Johannesburg happening in the coming month, and a Pretoria launch slated for later this year.

Speaking about how FitKey benefits independent gyms and fitness studios Walther said, “All these independents [gyms and fitness studios] can be hard to find, and while they’re great at teaching kettlebells, they’re not necessarily marketers. A lot them don’t have a website and rely on word of mouth. FitKey aggregates these providers in a meaningful way.”

FitKey will soon add big fitness franchises to its network of providers and from there, well, Walther hopes to take FitKey to the world stage and possibly expand it into other areas of the fitness world.

The Innovation Corner at Leaderex was made possible by Microsoft Bizspark.

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.