Payal Kadakia is the founder of ClassPass, a monthly membership service that connects people with a wide range of fitness classes. It started with a frustrating Google search for a dance class. Now Payal’s company is valued at $400m. But it wasn’t that easy. Check out how Payal went from near failure to $100m in revenue.
Meet Payal Kadakia, founder of ClassPass
Payal grew up in New Jersey. As a kid, she fell in love with dancing. She learned to dance by watching “Bollywood” videos in her bedroom and teaching herself the moves.
Payal graduated from MIT in 2005 with a degree in Operations Strategy.
She landed a digital marketing role at Warner Music Group, but even with a full-time job Payal continued to cultivate a love for Indian dance. So she started the Sa Dance company. She spent her days at work, and her nights dancing and building the brand.
She applied a lot of the marketing tactics from Warner to her dance company. And it was working… before she even had a website, the Sa Dance company landed on the front page of the Arts section of the New York Times.
The lightbulb moment
Payal wanted to attend a ballet class in New York city. After an exhausting Google search (it took almost an hour to find a class), she knew there was an opportunity to simplify the process.
Living two different lives
Payal knew it was time to move on from the Warner Music Group to focus on her passion full time. To her surprise, Payal’s mom (an immigrant who was very career-focused) gave her full blessing.
With no “plan b” in place, Payal gave Warner Music group her resignation and didn’t look back.
A search engine for fitness classes
In 2011, Payal launched Classtivity. It was like OpenTable for fitness classes; people could use the platform like a search engine to find available fitness classes in their area.
Payal and her childhood friend spent hundreds of hours in Starbucks setting up the company. They hired another friend to develop the site and moved into a small office courtesy of Payal’s mentor.
There was only one problem… people weren’t using the search engine. Payal admits she spent too much time on the website and not enough on customer testing. The result: there was too much friction involved in the process.
Let’s try this again
The second iteration was called Passport. For $49/month customers could try their favorite classes for one month. The hope was that customers would use Passport to discover new classes, then they’d sign up for a membership at their favorite studio.
But they didn’t… people were taking advantage of Passport by using fake emails and buying the product over and over again.
Third time’s a charm
After two pivots, in June 2013, Payal launched ClassPass.
Here’s how it works: Subscribers pay from $40 to $115 a month and can take classes at different studios. ClassPass receives a bulk discount in exchange for driving more traffic to the specific studios. Subscribers can only visit the same studio one to three times per month (based on plan). Payal refers to it as the “Pandora” of workouts.
After overhearing two girls rave about ClassPass in the elevator of her building, Payal knew ClassPass was on to something. And so did early stage investor, Fritz Lanman (who sold Livestar to Pinterest in 2013). Fritz told Payal that ClassPass could be the next Uber.
20 million+ classes booked
Since 2013, over 30 million classes have been booked through the app, which is available in more than 30 U.S. cities. ClassPass has raised over $84m and (according to Forbes) was on track to do more than $180m in 2016.
ClassPass continues to expand its reach in the United States and internationally. Payal’s goal is to offer more personalized recommendations through the app and ultimately broaden the experiences offered.
Payal’s advice for entrepreneurs: “Gravitate towards the people who energize you and the things that energize you. That’s where your happy, successful place will be.”
Payal will be sharing her story and the tactics she used to go from near failure to over a $150 million in revenue at Hustle Con on June 23rd. If you wanna see her in person and meet 2,500 other ambitious entrepreneurs, book your ticket today.