Meet Ilai Szpiezak, Co-Founder and CEO of HARKALIVE: the online marketplace for dance and wellbeing classesTom Gouldeon January 10, 2022 at 12:06 TechRound
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I started HARKALIVE to solve my own pain-point, caused – like many other pain-points! – by the pandemic. On the side of running a production company, I had always worked as a choreographer and teacher of Israeli Dancing. Yes, as niche a style as it is, Israeli Dancing has a loyal following and gave me the opportunity to work all around the world, from the US to Finland, Argentina to Switzerland, and more. When the pandemic hit, I found myself without any work, and with barely any technical knowledge, I taped together a basic online dance platform.
After reaching a base of 150 subscribers across 22 countries, six weekly classes and hundreds of hours of on-demand content, I realized that the platform built for my own benefit could be used by so many other teachers. That’s when I joined forces with my co-founders to build an open marketplace for dance and wellbeing.
On HARKALIVE, teachers remain in control of what to teach, when to teach, how much to charge, etc. HARKALIVE is the “space” where the transaction happens and where anyone can discover classes that fit them best, with no geographical barriers.
It’s kind of like an Airbnb, connecting teachers with students (rather than hosts and renters).
How has the need for HARKALIVE evolved during the pandemic?
As a society, we have developed new habits and ways of consuming services and products online. For instance, 13% of US consumers have set up a home gym throughout 2021 (McKinsey, October 2021), and with the rise of web decentralization, there’s no better moment than now to help creators make a living from their passions.
We are focused on creating a home for online classes (I call it the “cloud dance-floor”!), and leave control over class content to creators as compared to, for example Peloton, that develops its own content. We see the potential for expanding the $1.5T wellness market as well as diving into other forms of activities and instructor-led hobbies down the line.
Internally, we’ve evolved a lot in a short amount of time – we had to! This is the very first time I founded a tech startup. Prior to that, I was running my own production company, Upstage Creative, so launching a tech startup during the pandemic has been a big learning curve for me personally.
HARKALIVE has been fully remote since day one, and we plan to stay this way. As a team, we are distributed across three countries (and continents!): USA, Argentina and the UK. In other words, we embrace the world we are building towards!
What can we hope to see from HARKALIVE in the future?
We’re moving fast and working day and night to offer the best HARKA-Experience to anyone around the world. We are expanding the number of classes offered, bringing niche one-off workshops, weekly classes, and private sessions so that there is something for everyone.
You should be able to find a class you love regardless of your location, language or style preference; there is no “one size fits all” in dance, or wellbeing, or hobbies in general.
In terms of product roadmap, we just launched a new reviews system, and are working towards an updated class-discovery flow, on-demand content, and possibly incorporating performance/choreography NFTs.
Our North Star? We are passionate about the creator economy and believe that independent instructors should be able to monetize their passions, regardless of their follower count and free of middlemen. We are determined to create something that could bring joy to billions of people in the next decade!
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