Earlier this week, ClassPass, the game-changing fitness subscription startup founded by Payal Kadakia, hit a major success milestone. After five rounds of funding and plenty of trial and error, CassPass announced a $285 million Series E investment. This brings the company's valuation to over $1 billion. That's right: one. billion. dollars.
This epic achievement qualifies ClassPass as the first ‘unicorn' of the decade. In the venture capital industry, a unicorn refers to any tech startup that reaches a $1 billion dollar market value. This is determined by private or public investment.
Scaling a startup to this level is impressive, and it's especially rare for female founders. Payal is part of the meager 0.5% of female founders to make it past a Series C funding round. She's in good company with other ground-breaking unicorn babes including Emily Wiss of Glossier and Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss of Rent the Runway.
Since launching in 2013, ClassPass has cycled through a number of pricing models – not all of which have been well-received by the public. In spite of the challenges (or maybe because of them?), today, Payal's company is considered to be the world’s leading fitness membership marketplace with over 30,000 partner studios in 28 countries and upwards of 600 employees around the globe — all while maintaining a connection to the passionate mission that started it.
As many female founders know, passion doesn't always lead to profit, and success doesn't come overnight – or without a swell of struggles along the way. According to Forbes, Payal launched the ClassPass concept twice (first as Classivity and then Passport) before landing on the model we all know and love today.
Payal has been refreshingly transparent about her journey as a founder. As she shared with Forbes, she hopes her success encourages other female founders to think on a global scale. “To think I started this company thinking it was going to just be in New York City and then take this model to the rest of the world is amazing to me. When you have this vision in mind you can achieve it because that’s what technology and investments can do.”
According to QZ, venture capital funding for startups with at least one female founder more than doubled in 2018. Funding reached $46 billion worldwide, up from $21.9 billion in 2017 — but this still only accounts for a small fraction of the pool.
ClassPass' unicorn status has punched a huge hole in the glass ceiling and we can't wait to witness the trickle-down effect in 2020 and beyond.