Startup Spotlight is an interview series showcasing early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies.
In this Q&A, we check in with Jitendra Gupta, founder and CEO of myYogaTeacher. A serial entrepreneur, Jitendra explains why his latest venture is focused on health and fitness, how he raised $4M in funding while growing to 100K members, and the importance of building human connection in a digital environment.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at myYogaTeacher?
Jitendra Gupta: myYogaTeacher is an app that connects some of the most experienced yoga teachers on the planet—directly from India—to students here in the US for interactive, inexpensive group and one-on-one classes live streamed to the comfort of their own homes.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
JG: My previous company, Punchh, was very successful at helping global brands like Yum!, Denny’s, and TGI Friday’s engage with and monetize customers. On the outside, I had it all: a successful company, tons of friends, and a great family.
We were driving hard for that success but, on the inside, I was miserable — my eating habits were terrible, wasn’t sleeping well, wasn’t exercising enough, and counting the days to my next break while feeling like there had to be more to life.
In an effort to restore balance to my life, I turned to a friend from back home in India, where yoga isn’t a fashion statement but a serious course of university study. The friend introduced me to a highly educated yoga teacher with decades of experience, and we connected for one-on-one video lessons (since I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area).
The experience was amazing—especially compared to the yoga classes that I’d tried in the US—and it inspired me to bring the same authentic Indian yoga that changed my life to everyone.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
JG: myYogaTeacher is the third company that I’ve started, so much of the process of building the business side is familiar. The critical component that’s different with this company is how the experience is centered on the human connection between the teachers and students that can only come from live, interactive classes.
The entire 40+ member team knew how important it was to get that element right, and we put a lot of time and effort into making sure the experience lived up to our expectations and those of our customers. On the teacher side, attracting the teachers is easy because we offer strong income, flexibility, and easy onboarding. Some of our top teachers are making more money than top MBAs and engineers in India, all while working from home on a flexible schedule.
It was a strong validation of our approach when we passed 100k members with a 4.94-star App Store rating, and our recent $3M funding round provided a clear milestone that marked our strength as a company, as well as an exciting starting point for the next phase of our growth.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
JG: The global yoga market is expected to grow to $66B by 2027, with fitness apps expanding at nearly 22% annually from 2021 to 2028. myYogaTeacher is tapping both of those trends and combining them with a unique delivery approach that’s centered on maintaining a human connection between teachers and students.
Our approach has proven immensely successful not only with the membership growth but with revenue as well, which has increased by 15x over the past 18 months. And recent success from companies like VIPKid, WhiteHat Jr., and HealthifyMe provide a blueprint to scaling the idea.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
JG: Our core customers fall into three groups:
- Studi-Nos — people who want to do yoga but are uncomfortable or self-conscious about going into a physical yoga studio.
- Chronic Pain Sufferers — the CDC estimates that there are 50M people suffering from chronic pain (knees, necks, backs, hips, etc.) in the US alone, and yoga is a powerful pain management tool.
- Yoga Nerds — our teachers are some of the most educated and experienced in the world, and a large number of students are drawn to this knowledge base as a way to deepen their own understanding and practice of yoga.
So far, the bulk of our customer acquisition has come from word-of-mouth with modest marketing support. Our recent $3M seed funding round will allow us to accelerate customer acquisition by expanding our marketing and outreach efforts.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
JG: Our team is laser-focused on creating a positive, supportive, and healthy community, and the next six months will see a lot of activity there. We’re working directly with our members to develop and launch exciting new programs designed to strengthen our already tightly knit community.
We heard that a lot of our members were looking to get their friends and families to practice yoga with them, so we created Yoga With Friends, where members can create classes and invite their friends and family.
Another feature is Community Created Classes, where members of our community will be able to create and schedule customized group classes with a teacher of their choice based on a particular focus, whether it be meditation, pain management, core strength, etc. And if the class becomes popular, we add it to our regular schedule Global Classroom.
Our initial product launch was focused on the US, but we’re excited to open the myYogaTeacher experience to students around the world very soon.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
JG: The tech world makes a lot of noise about artificial intelligence, but it increasingly feels like the world is missing the emotional intelligence that comes from human connection.
myYogaTeacher is focused on restoring those human connections to the benefit of our collective physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and we’re pleased to see our approach gaining traction through our amazing growth and user retention rates that are well above industry norms.
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