Are you a Pilates person or a cyclist? Maybe you’re a HIIT person who’s convinced yourself that you’re only interested in dancing. Maybe you like to mix it up throughout the week. Maybe you just don’t know yet.
It’s hard to predict what type of workout or wellness class will work best for you on any given day. Many subscriptions or conventional studios also require commitments that can be daunting if you’re still figuring out what your ideal fitness plan is.
Over the past decade, ClassPass has made workout routines more accessible and flexible by offering an all-in-one membership that lets users join thousands of classes across a range of fitness offerings, from well -being and, more recently, beauty.
“ClassPass has been able to create synergies that have really boosted the growth of the entire industry,” said Payal Kadakia ’05, founder of ClassPass.
The company partners with fitness studios, gyms, salons and spas and offers users a platform that makes it easy to find and book classes. Users can pay for a low-tier membership if they just want to try a few classes each week, or a higher tier if they’re ready to do it all with a rotating array of fitness classes.
Kadakia has transformed ClassPass from a rough idea to a service that thousands of people use to improve their health every day. In a 2020 funding round, the company was valued at over $1 billion, earning it “unicorn” status. The journey culminated in the recent acquisition of ClassPass by MindBody, which provides backend software services to fitness studios.
Kadakia believes the acquisition will help further ClassPass’ mission to help more people live healthy and happy lives.
“A lot of people I talk to say, ‘I never would have realized I liked spinning and it’s my way of working out,’ or ‘I never would have tried this yoga class without ClassPass.’ , or “I would have never found this class that I go to every day now,” Kadakia says. “ClassPass has been an essential part of people’s routines. It makes fitness more accessible and fun.
Follow a passion
Kadakia came to MIT as an undergraduate in 2001 and majored in operations research.
“I think MIT was one of the toughest experiences of my life,” Kadakia says. “I had to solve complex problems that I never thought I could solve, but it also taught me a lot. It was an incredible experience.”
MIT is also where Kadakia says he learned to be a leader. She founded an on-campus South Asian fusion dance team, MIT Chamak, which still operates today.
Although Kadakia never thought about starting a business at MIT, she says her classes prepared her for many of the challenges she would face with ClassPass.
“My focus on operations research was very relevant to what I would be dealing with at ClassPass in the areas of inventory planning and supply chain management,” says Kadakia. “The way I plan my time stems from everything I learned in these classes.”
Kadakia became a consultant after graduation, but continued to dance. She founded another dance group, the SA Dance Company, in 2008. At that time, she was visiting a friend at MIT in San Francisco when she decided to seek out a ballet class.
“I was like, ‘Why isn’t it as simple as OpenTable, with a platform that takes all the information on the internet and puts it on one easy-to-use website?’ “recalls Kadakia.
She decided to build the solution herself.
“I don’t know how to code, but because I went to MIT, I felt more comfortable with developers and speaking the technical language,” she says. “MIT is all about problem solving. That’s really the essential thing that I learned on top of all these theories and applications: to peel something down to its core and solve a problem. This is at the heart of what entrepreneurship is.
At the time, each fitness studio offered classes on its own website through individual booking systems.
“That meant, from a marketing perspective, they had to acquire each customer individually,” Kadakia explains. “It’s expensive for a company that already has fixed costs and in which the courses cost 30 dollars. How much ad spend are you going to make against that? »
During the company’s early years, ClassPass evolved from an aggregator and search engine to a membership model.
“When we started getting that variety, we unlocked a different part of the fitness landscape that was really about trying new things for people who were intimidated or scared – which is basically 99% of the fitness market. We made fitness fun for them.
Today, ClassPass memberships operate on a tiered credit system. Users can assign credits to different types of fitness and wellness courses. Prenatal yoga at a local clinic might be four credits, while a gym session might be three. Since 2018, ClassPass has also helped users book beauty and wellness classes at spas and salons.
“I’ve always built a platform of experiences,” says Kadakia. “At the beginning, we had creative classes there. We ended up focusing on fitness, but it was always about being a platform to help people connect to soulful experiences.
To have an impact
The fitness industry has been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Kadakia says 95% of studios on the platform have temporarily shut down. ClassPass was developing a virtual fitness platform at the time, and those efforts took on new urgency.
“A lot of our focus has been on helping businesses on our platform because the most important thing was to make sure they survived,” Kadakia says. “Within weeks, we had on-demand videos and live lessons that people could book with their favorite instructors. It was a way to pivot to a product that would work in the circumstances we found ourselves in.
MindBody specializes in backend systems that studios use to process bookings and communicate internally. The company had been working with ClassPass since 2012.
“It’s been a long journey to get here, and I’m thrilled [the acquisition] happened now, when the industry really needs our attention,” says Kadakia.
Today, after more than a decade of using ClassPass, Kadakia begins the next chapter of its life. She recently wrote a book, “LifePass,” outlining her approach to goal setting while aligning her career and life with her passions.
Although Kadakia chose not to stay with ClassPass, she says she will always be proud of what she was able to accomplish with the company.
“We’ve reached big milestones for large companies, but what I’m most proud of is that we’ve processed over 100,000,000 bookings,” says Kadakia. “That’s 100,000,000 hours of people’s lives that we’ve impacted, and as a founder and a human being, that’s the best impact I could ever hope to have on the world.”