The CEO of ClassPass says its shaping up for IPO plans – Business Insider
ClassPass has talked for years about going public, but those plans seem to be on hold after the fitness startup revealed $238 million in new funding.
Fritz Lanman, who was an early investor before he ascended to the role of chief executive, said the startup looked at both options — raising a megaround or going public — to fuel growth. He stands to make a fortune in the IPO.
For now, the company is staying private to avoid the “scrutiny and short-termism” that exists on the public markets, Lanman told Business Insider.
The newest startup unicorn is still getting in shape for Wall Street.
ClassPass, the startup that lets members access workout classes at different studios for a monthly fee, has been talking about going public for at least three years. In 2017, Fritz Lanman, an early investor in the company and its chief executive, told a reporter ClassPass had no immediate plans for an initial public offering but that it was “on our radar.”
Lanman stands to make a lot of money when that happens. Before he was CEO, he joined the startup’s seed round of financing as an angel investor in 2014. The company, then called Classtivity, was worth about $15 million. A few months later, Lanman doubled down with a lead investment in the Series A round.
It seems Lanman will wait for his big payday a little while longer.
On Wednesday, ClassPass announced its arrival in the pantheon of unicorns, or startups valued at $1 billion or more, with a new $285 million investment. The megaround, led by the private-equity firm L Catterton and the growth-equity fund Apax Digital, brings the company’s valuation to $1 billion. The new share price of $12.58 makes Lanman’s seed-stage investment worth almost 15 times more.
The company said in a release that the late-stage financing would fuel its global expansion. ClassPass grew from four to 28 countries in the past 18 months.
Some of that new capital will go toward staffing up. Job listings show that ClassPass is hiring for more roles marked “international” than any other category, including partnerships and engineering, according to Thinknum Media, a data-analysis startup that scours job listings to find hiring trends.
Choosing growth over profits
Growing the business into new markets takes significant investment.
Lanman said the company considered the options: going public or raising a megaround. He saw the benefits of both.
“We’re always thinking about what is the best way to finance the balance sheet and meet our priorities,” Lanman told Business Insider. “I feel like they’re great for shareholder liquidity. That’s ultimately our goal — will be to IPO. But I think it also brings a lot of scrutiny and short-termism.”
An initial public offering remains one of the preferred outcomes for many venture capitalists, Eric Martineau-Fortin, the managing partner of White Star Capital in New York, recently told us.
“It not only provides exits to early-stage investors … but it also provides liquidity for the company and imposes excellent financial discipline to help management team continue to scale,” he said.
As an investor, Lanman gets the appeal. He’s backed more than 70 companies, with successful exits including Square, Pinterest, and Wavii, a news-aggregator app that sold to Google for more than $30 million in 2013. Still, the public markets have not been kind to money-losing unicorns in the past year, and going public too soon could be detrimental to the company’s future.
“We’re trying to build a generational internet company here and feel like we’re in the middle innings of the game,” Lanman said in response to a question about why it didn’t file to go public. The choice words were “internet company,” which suggest he sees ClassPass as a tech company and not just a fitness offering. One of the biggest knocks against WeWork, which pulled its IPO last year, was that it was a real-estate company spending and raising money like it was a tech company.
Peloton’s stock is still spinning out after the backlash of its holiday ad that was criticized as sexist, and shares are trading near its IPO price of $20. SoulCycle froze plans for a public debut in 2018, citing “market conditions” in a regulatory filing. The cycling studio took on debt in 2015.
Staying private gives ClassPass more time to get the revenues and costs associated with its product in shape.
“We kind of control our own destiny,” Lanman said. “Of course, we could manage the business to profitability, but we’re trying to invest in a way that will allow us to build a generational company, globally, across consumer and corporate. … That takes investment.”
The international expansion could juice the company’s revenue numbers, though Lanman said it has room to grow in the US as well. Only 38% of the population has access to fitness studios on ClassPass in their hometown, according to Lanman. The goal is to reach about 70% of Americans.