Launched in Singapore in 2015 by Jeff Liu and Rob Pachter, just 2 years later and GuavaPass dominates the fitness industry across Asia and the Middle East. Currently boasting 1,000+ studio partners in the region, the fitness platform offers over 1 million classes to its growing database.
In addition to studio partners and members, having raised $5 million, led by Singapore-headquartered Vickers Venture Partners, the business has plans to develop new products, continue to grow its market share and expand across the region.
Meeting through a mutual friend at Singaporean social hotspot, the Tanglin Club, Liu and Pachter, both entrepreneurs, quickly realised they saw eye-to-eye as collaborators. Passionate about healthy living and what was happening in the wellness industry, it was a matter of months before they started their business journey together.
Prior to their partnership, Pachter, who held the position of Director of Sales for Integral Ad Science Southeast Asia, lead client adoption of IAS’s digital technology solutions and oversaw the growing presence in the SEA market.
Liu, a former Head of Corporate Development at BeachMint, a venture-backed social e-commerce company in Santa Monica (founded by the co-founder of MySpace) ran the company’s Business Intelligence and Analytics divisions.
Today, fresh off the back of launching into their 11th city; Kuala Lumpur, we sat down with the duo to discuss multi-market challenges, creating value and the growth of Asia’s wellness industry.
“We recognised there was a massive trend happening across Asia from a macro perspective across the wellness space, as consumers were being more conscientious of what they put in their body, how they feel, and how they lived.” – Jeff Liu
On the original mission behind the business and brand…..
Liu: We’ve always believed in creating a lifestyle brand where we’d build a social community of healthy living and wellness experts. Our goal is to become the company that provides solutions for all ends of the spectrum in the wellness ecosystem and I believe we have really stayed true to that mission.
On turning a concept into a reality…..
Pachter: We had a very clear direction of the problem we were solving in the industry: helping consumers to get access to high-quality fitness classes which would influence them to live a healthier lifestyle. This was something that resonated with the team members as they believed in the mission we were solving.
With funding, we were able to showcase a path to how we were going to achieve milestones and what the execution would look like. It’s never easy but we are lucky to have the support of critical investors. In terms of operations, bringing on the right team members to work hard and through the rollercoaster ride that comes along with startups has been key. We are like a family, working together as one cohesive unit to achieve our goals.
On figuring out a go-to market strategy…..
Liu: We identified the top-tier cities in Asia and the Middle East that we knew we wanted to be in, based on macro trends. Launching first in Singapore made sense since we were both located here and could be very hands on.
On the growth of Asia’s wellness industry…..
Pachter: There has been a massive shift in the right direction in the fitness industry in Asia since I’ve been here. When I first arrived, ordering a kale salad was quite uncommon, now we have a whole host of healthy living establishments like cold press juiceries and vegan restaurants. There is also a macro trend with the rise of boutique studios vs. traditional gyms, as consumers are becoming more wellness educated and care about the quality of the classes.
On succeeding where others have struggled…..
Liu: We’ve had a very clear vision of the mission we were looking to build from day one. By staying focused on building a sustainable business we’ve put the blinders on to block out the noise.
On the importance of mentorship and support…..
Pachter: I do have a mentor in New York who I turned to for advice when I decided to take the leap of faith to start the company. It’s always super helpful to get thoughtful insights on the direction to take when you face tough challenges.
On funding strategies…..
Pachter: Raising money is a full-time job in itself. You need to make sure you bring on the right partners and look for smart money.
Every single investor acts as a brand advocate so you want to make sure you can find the right parties to help move the needle. People should know that it will be a very exhausting process, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your head up and know that with confidence — and most importantly determination — you’ll be able to accomplish it. Oh, and it will always take longer than you expect.
On creating value…..
Pachter: We’ve always wanted to build something bigger than just a fitness booking platform to aggregate studio classes for consumers. We believed in becoming a lifestyle brand, and that brand equity has allowed us to strike the right partnerships, introduce new products and become a trusted brand.
On multi-market challenges…..
Pachter: Our biggest challenge in terms of growth has been educating different markets on the new concepts of boutique fitness. It’s still early days, which is very exciting for us because it’s growing at an exponential rate.
On choosing Kuala Lumpur as GuavaPass’s 11th City…..
Pachter: We are very confident in the KL market as there are a ton of high-quality studio partners. The healthy living movement is happening now.