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[VIDEO] With 15M Bookings, Classpass Founder's Vision to "Make every life fully lived," Expand Beyond Fitness

Classpass, the beloved fitness app for booking workout classes across studios and gyms through one monthly subscription, is planning to do more than just get you fit. It wants to help expand your schedule to “all types of experiences,” including music, massage, and nearby concerts you haven’t heard about yet.

Payal Kadakia, Classpass founder & CEO, shared the news at this year's Startup Grind Conference in a conversation with Trinity Ventures’ Anjula Acharia-Bath to chat about the company's story from their early beginnings to its visionary future.

Kadakia created two “singles” - Dabble and Classtivity - before Classpass that didn’t become “hits,” said Anjula, in the language of the music industry in which she has already made a name for herself. Though the two didn’t take off, with 15 million reservations, Classpass has become the breakout single the former MIT & Bain alumna has been hustling for.

Watch Anjula Acharia-Bath of Trinity Ventures talk business with Payal Kadakia of Classpass, and read out highlights below.


How to Create Raving Fans

Looking for a way to bring her passion for dance into her life after leaving Bain, Kadakia started a company to “make people feel happy” through dance and fitness, and created a notable brand in the process.

How did she do it?

“A brand is a feeling, at the end of the day,” she observed. So the process when the company began five years ago began not with an idea of the brand but with a vision for a truly “magical” product. They’ve created a strong fan base, dominating major digital outlets popular among their young, tech savvy customers. There’s even a web video series created by two loyal users in Los Angeles on how Classpass has become a key part of their daily life - a testament to the popularity of the product.

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Grit, Hustle, and What It Takes To Be A Female Founder

Like with any hit product, the road to success wasn’t smooth: hustle and a dedication to work through multiple failures were key ingredients in getting Classpass to where it is now. 

When Anjula lauded Kadakia for her resilience, Kadakia likened her tolerance for failure "as a muscle." Her investor added, “I didn’t know if the business she first presented to me was going to work, but I knew she was going to work."

Being a female founder was also a challenge—in the beginning. Being a woman in Silicon Valley doesn’t have to be a constraint, emphasized Kadakia. The key is to “lead from a genuine place and be yourself in every meeting you’re in, in everything you do for your product—that's what's going to really speak huge volumes on your work and anything else that you do.”

Anjula echoed the sentiments, warning female founders not to get too discouraged by the current press around Silicon Valley’s gender balance problem. “Often my advice to women is please don’t read all that stuff because I actually think that puts you in a negative frame of mind."

For Kadakia, and for any founder, what matters is to "always show progress," which Kadakia has been dedicated to from the very beginning, from wooing advisors like Cyrus Massoumi of Zocdoc, even in spite of a mere 100 reservations total made on the first iteration of Classpass’s product.

Delivering a Life Fully Lived

But Kadakia insists that they’re only just beginning.

“Our vision is to make every life fully lived, and there’s a lot in that.” The company wants to make it easier to book fitness classes and try new physical activities, but it also wants to ultimately facilitate a more experience-rich life in general, whether that means getting you to sign up for music lessons, art classes, or massages in your city.

The dream is a big one, and the hustle that brought them here today will likely be what transforms Classpass from the app synonymous with booking a yoga session to the indispensable tool that lets you lead a fuller, more exciting life. 

“I’m not anywhere close to being done,” says Kadakia.