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#FoundersFridays: Meet Ruben Halfhide

Meet Ruben Halfhide, founder of Gymspaces. Founded in 2020, Gymspaces gives anyone on-demand access to indoor workout spaces.

Portrait of Gymspaces founder Ruben Halfhide inside a gym.
Image from Gymspaces

#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each hero answers questions on their entrepreneurial journey, their learnings, milestones and bottlenecks, as well as on Amsterdam and the Dutch startup scene. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to speak their minds freely and pass on their learnings to anyone who’s thinking about founding a startup as well.

This week we spoke to Ruben Halfhide, founder of Gymspaces. Gymspaces brings all available indoor workout spaces together. Through its innovative platform, you can have easy access to an overview of the spaces that are available in local sports facilities. Whether you are looking for a space to train your personal training clients in or to train with your friends, you can find your ideal workout facility on the platform.

How did your career journey lead you to found Gymspaces?

The short answer is that it didn't, as Gymspaces came as a result of my life. 

When I was about 15 years old, I was playing soccer (as all boys in the Netherlands do). I didn't really like the sport, and a high school friend asked me to join him in his karate class. 

I accepted the offer and in a small gymnasium in Gein, I was introduced to martial arts. For the remaining 12 years, as I am 27 at the time of writing, I practiced tae-kwon-do, kickboxing, and eventually found my passion in boxing.

In those 12 years, I visited countless gymnasiums, fitness centres, boxing gyms, dojos, etc. I mention this because it plays an important part in the founding story.

In 2019, I trained a friend. After some time, her cousin joined, more girls, of which my sister joined, and before I knew it, I was teaching a group how to box. As weather conditions worsened in late 2019/early 2020, we needed an indoor space to continue.

After Googling for some time, I still couldn't find a platform or facility where I could rent a space for an hour. As I was (and still am) training in a Holendrecht-based boxing gym, I called up my trainer to ask if I could rent the gym for an hour to teach my class.

Remember that I visited many facilities? What I started to realise was that just like the gym where I train, many of the smaller facilities I've visited throughout the years share the same challenge - they schedule fixed classes, but are stuck with empty spaces outside of those classes.

This is how Gymspaces (originally Gym Spaces) was born.

Why did you choose Amsterdam to start and grow your business?

Familiarity is the first reason. Being around the scene for years, I know more trainers and facilities here than anywhere else. Secondly, most followers and early adopts come from Amsterdam. That is the second reason.

What has been a recent “challenge” for your business, and what have you learned from it?

A recent challenge is that we introduced a new offering. Instead of renting per hour, people can now buy a "Structured Renting Membership". Larger facilities, like Basic-Fit) already implement it and call it vloergeld. It is a contract that gives a trainer access to one of their facilities to train their clients out of.

We changed it a bit to make it fair to both the facility and renter. Instead of signing a 1 to a 2-year contract, contracts start at 3 months. Facilities can also introduce multiple contracts, varying in the maximum amount of hours a trainer can use the space, like 10 hours per week, 20 hours per week, or unlimited hours.

Implementing this feature on the website was challenging as we had to decide to create new pages, to implement some sort of e-commerce components, and whatnot. Eventually, we looked at some examples of companies that do something similar to us (like Airbnb) and I followed my brother's advice - "keep it stupid simple".

Our solution was to just add a text field explaining the contract, and change the hourly renting component to facilitate buying the contracts. 

Initially, I wanted to come up with a complicated solution. However, my go-to approach is to solve something as simply as possible and improve from there. By executing a complex solution, you don't even know if it works, you lose valuable time, time in which you could get feedback on the simple solution and make improvements. So my learning is to keep things simple.

What has been a recent “win” for your business?

Definitely making revenue for the first time, which is also personal, of course. I started this as a hobby project and was not thinking about monetisation. Once my savings started to dry up, I had to make money. So the first commission for selling a "Structured Renting Membership" and the first commission over an hourly rental are recent wins I won't forget. It helps me push through when things get difficult or challenging.

Wins for the business are that we sign up facilities every week and new people are approaching us with questions and requests on WhatsApp, email, Instagram, and Facebook. This indicates that our reach is growing and that people are interested in the service. We don't run ads, for now, so even though things are moving a bit, they are moving in the right direction!

What are the current needs of Gymspaces?

We need someone to execute the marketing strategy. This is unfortunately not my area of expertise. It will help us get on the radar of more people quicker. Apart from that, I think we're good to go for now. Eventually, I am considering getting a core team. A commercial co-founder is what I'd like to attract first.