Payal Kadakia, Classtivity, Woman Entrepreneur

ImagesMore business plans cross my desk these days.  I wish I had the time to meet every person but there is only so many hours in the day so I have to pick and choose mostly based on the concept.  Classtivity came into my box and it spurred my interest immediately.  Why isn't there a fantastic site that lists every class available from yoga, photography, cooking or even book readings.  If I go on vacation and want to find a spin class with a great instructor who plays good music how come I can't find that information at one site?  If that site had crowd sourcing and was capturing data to give back to the places who put on the classes wouldn't that even be better.  So that is how Payal Kadakia ended up in my office.

Payal has great energy.  She is smart as a whip and beautiful to boot.  She basically has the whole package.  Payal grew up in Randolph, NJ.  Her parents both ran away together from India to the US so they could get married.  They are both chemists so it isn't surprising that Payal went to MIT for her undergraduate degree.  She has always been a math/science junky being the first girl to win the math/psychics award in her high school. 

At MIT she was one of the only two people of her year to major in operations research.  For the management end of this degree she learned about marketing finance, operations and supply chain management.  The engineering part was about theory and optimization.  She built an application on how radiation beams should be positioned to fight cancer.  Looking at curves and how they work is heavily math oriented and certainly you need to be a rigorous thinker. 

After graduating Payal went to work for Baine capital as a general consultant.  Her first summer she worked at JPMorgan.  Her sophomore summer she worked in investment banking doing financial models and although she appreciates it knew that was not something she had any interest in doing.  Her junior summer she spent at the Monitor Group.  I liked how she took each summer to learn different parts of the finance world so it makes sense that Payal ended up at Baine. 

Through our her entire life she has been a dancer.  Her love is Indian dance which she has been doing she was three.  Even at MIT she created MIT Chamak, a dance group at the school  She believes that dance and her dance teacher taught her discipline which is one of the main key components to her drive.  While working at Baine she was also dancing with a Bollywood dance group when she had time.  It was truly her passion. 

She had been at Baine for three years and thought about going to business school but instead took a different path and got a job at Warner Music Group.  It was an interesting time as companies like Spotify were getting into the market and negotiating with musics companies on how artists were going to benefit from these new channels. 

At the same time, Payal decided to start the Sa Dance company after office hours.  She put together the top ten dancers she knew and she would work from 9-6 and then dance every night while growing that business.  She knew how to build a business and eventually the Sa Dance company performed at Alvin Ailey to a sold out crowd.  She was bringing Indian dance to the stage.  To her, the dance company was like geometry, it was a problem to be fixed. 

Payal knew that although she was burning the candles at both ends she did not want to let Sa Dance be her career.  She was entrepreneurial and began to think about what she wanted to do next.  She took a trip to San Francisco in the summer of 2010 trying to get a feel for what the entrepreneurial world was all about meeting founders and alike.  While she was out there she tried to find a dance class on line and couldn't.  It was then that the idea for Classtivity was formed.

Payal went back to NY and continued to work for Warner Music until she was ready to be an entrepreneur full time.  Classtivity is about leisure classes.  She knows that the first thing that they have to do is solve the problem of getting the classes filled with the best teachers for the vendor.  There are over 15000 classes in NYC alone every month so to begin building a comprehensive directory in NYC is the first challenge.  Just like math, this is a problem that needs a solution.  It is similar to the data mining work she did at MIT.

I love the idea.  What I am really excited about is that Payal was one of the handful of companies accepted into the spring program at NYC Techstars.  I hope to mentor them through the process. Taking a variety of small businesses and helping them connect with more clients, understand their data and grow intelligently is not only providing a service to the vendors it is a providing a service to class takers.  A match made in the cloud. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Sharon

    Wow– the whole package indeed!! So impressive.  I love the business idea– agree with you Joanne, how great would that be to have all that information in one place.  Best of luck…

    1. Payal Kadakia

      Thanks for the support Sharon!  

      1. Ashish Jain

        Saw an article on you in recent Entrepreneur mag. Great going! Good luck…

  2. Ryan Drew

    Classtivity is an outstanding business idea. The fluidity of classes across many different disciplines (dance, yoga, crossfit) at many locations (gyms, studios) makes location and tracking an intensive undertaking.The business can grow and evolve in many directions:- alerts when scheduled classes change – filters based on proximity/price – FourSquare’esque ability to check-in to classes – targeting & offering discounts to users who have checked into certain classes (i.e. ‘based on your attendance at cross fit and yoga classes, you may like a fast-twitch class offered by…’)

    1. awaldstein

      Agree.Care in curation and presentation is everything.All classes in all things is a big chunk.Even fitness alone is a chunk.Decision around how to present the context is key to making this incredibly useful or the yellow pages.And of course, how you mash up communities under such a large umbrella will be social design opportunity.But yes…do really like the idea.

      1. Ryan Drew

        A hurdle Classtivity faces is providing value to participating studios. Is value metrics-based? I have yet to see a company crack the code to provide value to both the supplier (in this case, the studios and their information) and the end user. Is information on the #s of Classtivity users attending classes & trends over time enough? Is ‘community building’ a measurable value?

        1. awaldstein

          Big questions.I’m building a project not in this space but on the threads of community between suppliers and purchasers that dances to the same challenge.

          1. Ryan Drew

            In terms of community, one size fits one (and is difficult/impossible to scale).What I like about Classtivity is it is based around an agnostic variable (class locations/time) that could foster cross-promotion (yoga studio + gym) or encourage bundled experience (yoga + juice bar across the street).

          2. awaldstein

            We shall see.Agnostic as a community dynamic is certainly breaking new ground. POV and niche are the opposite of agnostic.

          3. Gotham Gal

            it is not easy and certainly a big challenge. yet, once it is done and i believe it can be, the opportunities are endless.

          4. awaldstein

            Agree…I’ll watch this one. How you define and bridge a niche to a broader market is a topic I think about and work in a lot.Thanks for sharing this project.

      2. Gotham Gal

        thanks Andy. i am sure payal is reading all of these comments.

    2. Gotham Gal

      Great feedback

    3. Payal Kadakia

      Ryan, Thanks for the support and all the unique growth ideas. We’ve incorporated some of these already and are looking into the “check-in” functionality as we speak. Would welcome any feedback on the product once we launch. 

      1. Ryan Drew

        Payal, some quick feedback/SUR (selfish user request), make it available in DC as soon as possible! All the best; I look forward to following your growth.

        1. Gotham Gal

          SUR. Very nice.

          1. Ryan Drew

            It can’t launch soon enough. I’ve got a collection of class list brochures like take-out menus.

  3. Rohan

    These Indians. They are really good, eh? 😉

    1. Gotham Gal

      Ha. Very!

  4. Lavina Melwani

     Seems like a great idea! I’m not surprised it’s coming from Payal – I’d covered her Sa Dancers in New York – and each of them was a combination of beauty and brains. Here’s the piece on them –

  5. paramendra

    Looks promising. 

    1. Austar

      No it doesn’t.

      1. paramendra

        She looks promising as an entrepreneur … I am just agreeing with The Gotham Gal here …. wouldn’t you?

  6. jce2226

    the issue with classtivity is that it already exists….check out and you’ll see what i mean. also has a badass female co-founder at its helm

    1. Gotham Gal

      I have seen coursehorse. Great name btw. they have done a really good job. who is the team behind it?

  7. Livercp

    So for all hoopla about her science education she now created another stupid web 2.0 web company to add to bubble .

  8. Shabnam Rezaei

    there already is a website for this. It’s called and it won the NYU business plan competition. They offer great classes and have a very easy to use website.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I know yet there are always opportunities in many marjets

  9. Austar

    Doesn’t seem that ground breaking of a business plan.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Might not be. Time will tell