Matthew Mansell Sees Cooperation Over Competition as Key to Building a Successful Startup


Matthew Mansell, founder of fitness platform Athlo, knows about competition. He’s a former pro rugby player. But he also values cooperation and knows that some of the best gains a business can make aren’t necessarily those that come at the expense of potential competitors, but with their assistance.

A cooperative philosophy in business isn’t entirely unheard of, but certainly less prevalent than the “take no prisoners” mentality that many startups have as dogma. And perhaps they should. Market disruption — what many startups depend on to get a seat at the table — is undoubtedly accomplished in one form by displacing the status quo.

For Mansell and Athlo, that displacement could have come at the expense of gyms and fitness centers. But Mansell saw another route.

As a platform, Athlo serves three constituencies. There are those who sign up for the service and use the application to curate classes and gym memberships for personal use. There are those who use the platform to shop their own memberships and classes to others on the app. And finally, there are the gyms and fitness centers that look to retain (and grow) their memberships.

Matthew Mansell: ‘Confront the Pain Points’

While the case to “cooperate” with users and members is basic business sense, the idea of folding the gyms into the package was more novel.

“I’m not here to dismantle someone’s product offering or the relationships that they have,” Mansell said. “But rather confront the pain points that these gym brands are having with some aggregators.”

Unlike traditional aggregators, Mansell decided that instead of enticing members away from being gym members, he would make the gyms and other brick-and-mortar facilities a focus of Athlo’s business model.

“I think digital’s here to stay. I think brick-and-mortar [gyms] are definitely here to stay, and I envision Athlo being an intermediary making sure that the relationship between the two of them remains beneficial,” Mansell said. “I don’t see why we all can’t coexist in the same ecosystem and everyone collectively drive the sector forward for consumers.”

Growth Predicted for Global Fitness Industry

There is certainly plenty of business out there for everyone to do well. The global fitness industry has an estimated value of $87 billion as of 2022. While that sounds like a lot, increased interest in health and wellness over the past several years has industry experts suggesting that by 2028 that pie, just in the United States, could be as large as £352.8 bn or more.

The timing of Athlo’s launch, essentially right after the pandemic “ended,” should also bode well for a cooperative partnership between Athlo and brick-and-mortar facilities.

During the pandemic, many countries, including the U.S. with its £27 bn fitness market, shuttered businesses such as gyms and health centers. While the industry has rebounded nicely now that people are out and about again, gyms and fitness centers took a particularly tough beating during the 2020 through 2021 time frame, and it will take time to recover.

For gyms, a big part of that will be retention of what members they have left, as well as an active campaign to get new members. Enter Athlo.

“There’s a number of factors that we help the gyms out on, but primarily their retention and their attrition rate,” Mansell said. “Customer acquisition costs are generally speaking five times more expensive than they are to retain a member. So, from an economic point of view, you want to retain your members. But then from a term perspective, your customer lifetime value, if you can extend them just by one additional month, it has a huge, huge effect on the baseline of those gyms and health clubs.”

Learn more about Matthew Mansell and Athlo here: