For the first time since stepping down as CEO of ClassPass in March, founder Payal Kadakia is finally opening up. In a new interview with MarieClaire.com, Kadakia discusses the tough business decisions she’s had to make since launching the company in 2013, why she decided that this was the right time to announce her new role as executive chairman, and her thoughts on the recent misfortunes of other female-led startups.
On how she feels about the optics of a 34-year-old woman of color’s leadership role going to a 35-year-old white male:
“The best thing I could do is build a successful company, and continue to innovate and be in the right role I want to be in. If I’m not doing that, I’m inauthentic. That’s not a good role model to anyone. That, to me, is the most important thing. It’s about knowing yourself and what you’re good at. Females, males—anyone can be anything they want to be.”
On the unsustainability of ClassPass’s unlimited business model:
“We launched unlimited and it was great and we decided to keep it. Engagement just kept going up. People were working out more and more, trying more studios, more people were joining. Given we had grown so much and the product experience was better, would people be okay with [a price increase]? Would the product still have growth and virality? We started testing those packs, and they did phenomenally well.”
On the move to raise prices nearly 200 percent last year:
“I never feel bad. You can’t feel bad—you have to just make the best decision you can at the time you’re in, and be like, that’s the decision I believe in. Make a decision, though. The worst thing you can do is sit there and do nothing, right?”
On the backlash ClassPass received on social media last year:
“Yeah, I mean, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I built a product to inspire people, so it’s not great. That being said, I do believe it’s an amazing product. I think the engagement on it speaks for itself.”
On her thoughts on the recent misfortunes of other female-led startups, like NastyGal and Thinx:
“You can get caught up in all that noise. I feel grateful I’m a female. I built a product for a lot of females to be more empowered in their life, but like…I could be labeled all day long. Everyone can. You either see that as something that restricts you, or you’re just like, ‘I am label-free.’ A hundred years ago, men went to work, women didn’t really. Now that’s changed. We just need the world to catch up.”
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