My Swedish Career
Adam Webb with his business partner Paul Stallwood. Photo: Private
'We've done everything, with no money at all'
Published on: 14 Sep 2015 08:00 CET
Working out is supposed to reduce stress. But when Adam Webb tried to relieve some of the pressures of moving to a new country by training at a Swedish gym, he instead found his blood pressure rising.
"It was very hard to join a gym without a Personal Number in Sweden, and to get one of those you need a bank, and to get a bank you need an address and to get an address confirmed takes a long time. Plus I didn't know if I was staying for a week, a month or a year, so I couldn't find a place to accommodate my situation," he tells The Local.
A year on, he's now the co-creator of an online company designed to help international expats, students and business travellers to find places to work out, without being asked to climb a mountain of paperwork first.
Gymgo allows users to buy temporary passes to access different gyms or fitness class facilities across Stockholm.
"You have no contract, no need for a Personal Number or address. All you need is a credit card to pay online. You get emailed your pass and away you go," explains Webb.
Customers can currently choose from 25 different locations across the capital, including sports centres offering yoga, pilates, Jiu Jit Su and kickboxing.
Most are small local businesses, with Webb explaining that his team is "keeping away from big chains" until the start-up has a bigger user base.
While the company is still what the Briton describes as "in the very early stages", he says its aim is eventually "to be like the Booking.com of sport". The idea is to encourage customers from anywhere in the world to sign up for and rate gyms and sports activities across Scandinavia in the same way that they can currently pick and choose hotels and hostels.
Gymgo has already impressed judges at Sting, one of Stockholm's biggest start-up incubators, reaching the final 20 firms being considered for funding earlier this year.
"We missed out because at that stage we didn't even have a website or any users, but they have asked to talk to us again in January," he explains.
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Until then, Webb is practising lean living in order to realise his dream. He is currently studying a digital entrepreneurship course at Hyper Island business school in Stockholm, for which he receives funding from the government, having given up a job in sales to focus on the business.
"The CSN [study grant] is about 9,000 kronor a month but then my rent is 8,000," he laughs, before adding that he also has a "very small income which pays for food and stuff" from renting out a property in Brighton, his home city.
"It's challenging...we have done everything, with no money at all!"
Webb's business partner Paul Stallwood, 39, is a fellow Brit who works full-time on Gymgo, supported by his wife who has a job at a Swedish broadcaster.
The pair became friends after a chance encounter while they were both out walking in a Stockholm park and fleshed out their business idea on lunch breaks when they later ended up working together at CEO Magazine.
Neither of them yet speak good Swedish, with Webb citing Almi, a state-owned, privately run service for new businesses in Sweden, as a key source of legal and financial advice in English.
Gymgo has also drawn on the resources of Webb's twin brother, a designer who lives in London, to help create the brand's launch website, which he says will develop as Gymgo expands.
Adam Webb with his daughter Mabel. Photo: Private
Currently aged 34, the entrepreneur is no stranger to living in different cities, having also spent time in the British capital following an eight-year stint in Paris working for the UK's Immigration Service.
After having a daughter with his Brazilian-Swedish girlfriend, the couple moved to Stockholm a year ago, but split up soon afterwards. However Webb says he's "going nowhere" and is clearly passionate about creating stability in the Swedish capital for the pair's child Mabel, who is now two.
"Everything I am doing is to provide a better life for Mabel, she is why I am here," he explains.
"But I like a new city, new people, a new challenge...and I have quite an entrepreneurial spirit."
And while Webb describes himself as the kind of person who could "live anywhere", he appears to feel at very at home as part of the Swedish capital's growing tech scene.
"I need to be in charge of my own time, my own schedule without someone telling me 'sit at that desk for eight hours'," he smiles.
With learning Swedish a high priority for 2016, Webb's current focus is on expanding his business ahead of Sting's next pitching round in the New Year.
"I like these tests. It would be great to have thousands of pounds to say 'do, this, do that' but its also a real challenge to have no money. Here in the industry we call it 'growth hacking', creating something from nothing...I love that."