ClassPass is an platform that has taken major cities across the world by storm. An app that has been called the “middleman,” between you and virtually all your neighboring studio and fitness centers.
While it seems like quite the sudden rise for this tech startup, it was in fact, founded seven years ago in 2013 by Payal Kadakia.
Despite the bad press and reports of them “squeezing” the margins of fitness studios, operating with a reportedly “unsustainable” business model and enacting rates of memberships without any warnings, it is a company that has undoubtedly shaken up the fitness industry.
Here is the journey of ClassPass so far.
Kadakia graduated from MIT in Boston in 2005 and went straight to work as a consultant at Bain and Co. She later joined Warner Music Group.
The corporate position at Warner Music Group gave Kadakia the time to dance. During this period she also started her own dance company called Sa.
Sick of corporate life, she gave herself 14 days to think of an idea for a company. She stated that if she didn’t find something within that time frame, she wasn’t cut out for entrepreneurship.
Spending over an hour searching for an open ballet class in New York, Kadakia had the idea to create a search engine for fitness classes, which was originally called DabbleNYC.
Kadakia and Sanjiv Sanghavi spent a year preparing DabbleNYC (later becoming Classtivity.)
During this time, Classtivity continued offering fitness search options and later in March 2012, entered the TechStars accelerator. Kadakia and Sanghavi had plans to graduate and launch publicly in June 2012. This version of the product was intended to sell a more effective registration system to fitness studios.
Kadakia told Business Insider that her boss’ reference from Warner Bros. was what got her into TechStars, deemed as one of the most competitive accelerators.
In an interview with Tech Crunch, she confessed that the initial “version of the site didn’t even get to 100 reservations in over two years.”
In September 2012, Mary Biggins was brought onto the team as a co-founder of Classtivity to help with marketing.
In January 2014, Classtivity was rebranded as ClassPass. In the same year, Sanghavi also left the company to work on something else.
By this time the product had gone viral.
ClassPass received seed funding of $2 million in March 2014. Then, in September 2014, it attracted $12 million in Series A round funding from American entrepreneur and investor Fritz Lanman.
Lanman is known for his role in Microsoft’s $240 million Facebook investment in 2007. He is also an angel investor who has invested in the seed rounds in over 70 technology companies, including Square, Inc. and Pinterest.
In May 2015, Kadakia and her fiancé, lawyer Nick Pujji married.
In 2015, ClassPass received $40 million of Series B funding from General Catalyst and Thrive Capital. The company was valued at over $200 million. ClassPass received an additional $30 million of funding in November 2015, led by Google Ventures.
By April 2016, the company had booked over 17 million fitness reservations.
In March 2017, Kadakia swapped roles with Lanman, with Lanman becoming the CEO and Kadakia becoming executive chairman.
By the end of the same year, the company had booked 45 million reservations and expanded across 10 states in North America.
In an interview with Tech Crunch, Kadakia said “I started this company so I could have an impact on the world… I want people to go to class, and that’s the number one thing that drives me, that gets me up in the morning. I want my day, every day, to be surrounded by that mission, and as a company grows, product and vision become less of the day-to-day of a CEO.”
In May 2017, ClassPass announced a $70 million Series C funding round led by Temasek Holdings that valued the company at $470 million.
In 2018, ClassPass launched live-streamed fitness classes for $15 per month, described as a “new subscription based service set to be the first at-home workout to deliver immersive fitness experiences through wearable-integrated video streaming.” And in October that same year, ClassPass expanded to Thailand.
In January 2019, ClassPass acquired APAC rival Guavapass for $4.6 million – a move to help expand into markets abroad. The acquisition brought the company into more than 80 markets across 11 countries.
It raised $285 million in funding during the beginning of 2020, placing the company’s valuation at $1 billion.
Since early 2019, rumors continue to float that the company is in the process of an initial public offering.