Behind Her Empire: ClassPass Founder Payal Kadakia on How Her Heritage Inspired Her Entrepreneurship

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

ClassPass Founder Payal Kadakia
Image courtesy of Payal Kadakia

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, entrepreneur Payal Kadakia talks about how her Indian heritage helped her become the entrepreneur she is today.

Kadakia is the founder of ClassPass, a fitness and wellness membership app that was acquired by MindBody in October. Prior to its acquisition, ClassPass was valued at over $1 billion, with members logging more than 100 million hours of workouts across 30,000 partner studios.

Kadakia's parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 70s, taking a huge risk to follow their dreams and opportunities.

"My parents never wanted me to have to go through any type of struggle, any type of hardship that they went through. So, they trained me in a way to be a bit more risk averse. And what that meant was making sure I had stability, good career, good education, good foundation," said Kadakia.

Kadakia had a passion for Indian dance that kept her connected to her culture. Where she grew up, there weren't many people that looked like her outside of her dance classes. For her it was a transformative experience.

"While I struggled to fit in, I think I also found beauty in who I was through being around this other group of people who did look like me. And where all of us could be together on Saturday and Sunday mornings," said Kadakia.

After graduating college and living in New York City, Kadakia decided to take her own calculated risk when she started ClassPass. Her idea was to create a show from a 100-person dance company she’d founded shortly after finishing college, but she had no idea if the idea would work.

Kadakia rented out the space, but had no idea if people would show up. On opening night, the show was sold out. Lines of people sat along the side of the walls since there weren't enough seats.

"When everyone gave us a standing ovation, at the end of that show, I felt very confident and I knew that I should really be going towards these feelings that my heart is telling me. That these things that I feel are really what my gift is," said Kadakia.

That success inspired her to take ClassPass beyond dance. It’s since become known as a fitness and wellness platform with classes and gyms around the world.

Kadakia said her experience has taught her to think of hobbies as something more than side projects.

"That's the crux of why I started ClassPass,” she said. “I just felt that we shouldn't ever give up on these things. And people call them hobbies, or whatever they might be, but they feed our soul, it's not about our age at all."

Hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Audience Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

LA Tech Week Day 5: Social Highlights
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about the fifth day of L.A. Tech Week on social:

Read moreShow less

LA Tech Week: How These Six Greentech Startups Are Tackling Major Climate Issues

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

LA Tech Week: How These Six Greentech Startups Are Tackling Major Climate Issues
Samson Amore

At Lowercarbon Capital’s LA Tech Week event Thursday, the synergy between the region’s aerospace industry and greentech startups was clear.

The event sponsored by Lowercarbon, Climate Draft (and the defunct Silicon Valley Bank’s Climate Technology & Sustainability team) brought together a handful of local startups in Hawthorne not far from LAX, and many of the companies shared DNA with arguably the region’s most famous tech resident: SpaceX.

Read moreShow less

LA Tech ‘Moves’: LeaseLock, Visgenx, PlayVS and Pressed Juicery Gains New CEOs

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: LeaseLock, Visgenx, PlayVS and Pressed Juicery Gains New CEOs
LA Tech ‘Moves’:

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis ( Please send job changes and personnel moves to


LeaseLock, a lease insurance and financial technology provider for the rental housing industry named Janine Steiner Jovanovic as chief executive officer. Prior to this role, Steiner Jovanovic served as the former EVP of Asset Optimization at RealPage.

Esports platform PlayVS hired EverFi co-founder and seasoned business leader Jon Chapman as the company’s chief executive officer.

Biotechnology company Visgenx appointed William Pedranti, J.D. as chief executive officer. Before joining, Mr. Pedranti was a partner with PENG Life Science Ventures.

Pressed Juicery, the leading cold-pressed juice and functional wellness brand welcomed Justin Nedelman as chief executive officer. His prior roles include chief real estate officer of FAT Brands Inc. and co-founder of Eureka! Restaurant Group.

Michael G. Vicari joined liquid biopsy company Nucleix as chief commercial officer. Vicari served as senior vice president of Sales at GRAIL, Inc.

Full-service performance marketing agency Allied Global Marketing promoted Erin Corbett to executive vice president of global partnership and marketing. Prior to joining Allied, Corbett's experience included senior marketing roles at Disney, Warner Bros. Studios, Harrah's Entertainment and Imagi Animation Studios.

Nuvve, a vehicle-to-grid technology company tapped student transportation and automotive sales and marketing executive David Bercik to lead the K-12 student transportation division.