Founder who started her $470 million business in a rigorous NYC tech accelerator explains how to get in

Payal Kadakia ClassPassClassPassIt’s all about connections, says ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, who got her start at rigorous tech accelerator Tech Star.

What’s the best way to get an application to stand out? According to ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, it’s all about your references. 

Kadakia joined Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell on Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” and explained how she got into Tech Stars, a rigorous tech accelerator program in New York City. ClassPass is currently valued at about $US470 million.

She said she pitched her startup idea to her then-boss, Warner Music Group vice chairman Michael Fleisher.

“I had this idea brewing in my head and the vice chairman of Warner Music Group, Michael Fleisher, called me,” Kadakia told Shontell. “He was like, ‘Why don’t you come to my office and I’d love to hear about this.’ I’d maybe met him three times in my three years there. Ended up spending two hours explaining to him what I wanted to build. And he was like, ‘You know what? I love this.'”

Fleisher wrote an email on her behalf to David Tisch, the venture capitalist running the Tech Stars program. 

“He emailed David Tisch that day and to me, it was about relationships. I know I did the application and all of it,” Kadakia said. “I really truly believe, though, I got in because people referred me. And I always tell entrepreneurs this: Yes, it’s about your application, they’re going to get thousands, but find a way to really get a good reference.”

Or, she added, get someone to support you into the program. “I know I had a lot of people who were vouching for me being like, ‘I believe in Payal. I believe in this idea,’ and I really believe it’s because of that.”

You can listen to the full interview here:

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Here’s an excerpt of the transcript:

Alyson Shontell: … How do you get into Tech Stars? Tech Stars is this accelerator program where startups would apply and it was really rigorous. It was hard to get into. David Tisch, who was a big venture capitalist in the New York area was running it. How did you wind up there doing this?

Payal Kadakia: I had this idea brewing in my head and the vice chairman of Warner Music Group, Michael Fleisher, called me. He was like, why don’t you come to my office and I’d love to hear about this. I’d maybe met him three times in my three years there. Ended up spending two hours explaining to him what I wanted to build. And he was like, “You know what? I love this.” He became my investor and he also was one of the mentors in the Tech Stars program. He emailed David Tisch that day and to me, it was about relationships. I know I did the application and all of it. I really truly believe, though, I got in because people referred me. And I always tell entrepreneurs this: Yes, it’s about your application, they’re going to get thousands, but find a way to really get a good reference, right? Or get someone to support you into the program. I know I had a lot of people who were vouching for me being like, “I believe in Payal. I believe in this idea,” and I really believe it’s because of that.

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