Sima Sistani’s plan for WeightWatchers is inspired by Houseparty

Good morning broadsheet readers! Elizabeth Holmes is being sentenced, Wimbledon is changing its dress code and WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani has a plan for what to do next. Have a productive Monday.

– Ready to swivel. Sima Sistani is best known in Silicon Valley as the founder of the pandemic-favorite video app Houseparty. After Epic Games acquired her business in 2019, she took on an executive role at the gaming company before taking over as CEO at WeightWatchers in March.

Switching from gaming to a nearly 60-year-old weight-loss platform might seem like an odd pivot. But Sistani says she accepted the role to help WeightWatchers bring its traditional personal communities online. The community aspect has always been at the forefront of the WeightWatchers experience, she says, but the app-based version of the program focuses on counting points rather than connection. “The common thread running through all of these experiences is the digitalization of social connections,” Sistani told me last week at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, her first live interview since stepping into the CEO job.

WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani at MPW Next Gen on November 16, 2022.

Stuart Isett/Fortune

But digitizing communities brought together by weight loss is harder than gathering friends. The conversation about weight and wellness is evolving rapidly, with many promoting a “health at any size” approach. Case in point: WeightWatchers went through a well-publicized rebrand to “WW” in 2018, but has started using its original name again. “It’s up to us to change the stigma attached to the word ‘weight,'” Sistani said onstage.

Sistani used WeightWatchers herself and relied on the platform to lose 60 pounds after giving birth to her first child. But she said diet and the discussion of its effects on health and body image are not new to her as her mother is a nutritionist with a degree in food science.

At WeightWatchers, she tries to improve the digital experience for users who love the platform and not pressure those who don’t want to lose weight. “Body positivity is amazing. But there’s a false dichotomy that we have to be at odds,” she said. “The undercurrent in all of this conversation is shame — shame about gaining weight, shame about losing weight, shame about loving the body you’re in, shame about wanting to change that body.”

But WeightWatchers stock is trading below $5 and customer acquisition is needed. Sistani said the company was profitable but hadn’t shown any growth, which is why investors rated the share price so low. Instead of relying on marketing that consumers can read in a way that pressures people to use WeightWatchers and lose weight, she plans to improve the product so people already looking for weight loss support can get by find out about it from their friends. “It’s a big difference from the way we may have shown ourselves in the past,” she said. “If that’s what you choose to do,” she added, “we’re here to support you.”

Read on below to learn more about MPW Next Gen over the past week.

Emma Hinchliffe
[email protected]
@_emmainchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

– Back again. In an impressive move, Disney’s board of directors ousted Bob Chapek as CEO and brought back longtime boss Bob Iger. “As Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry change, Bob Iger is in a unique position to lead the company through this pivotal period,” Disney CEO Susan Arnold said in a statement. CNBC

– Set is in. Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced Friday to just over 11 years in prison for using her failed blood testing company Theranos to defraud investors. Holmes plans to appeal. New York Times

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– How she did it. Rep. Karen Bass’ victory in the Los Angeles mayoral race was not a typical win. She defeated billionaire candidate Rick Caruso in a $100 million campaign. That’s how she did it. Los Angeles Times

– Focus on playing, period. Wimbledon has always required tennis players to adhere to an all-white dress code. The tournament now allows women to wear colored briefs under their white clothing to reduce anxiety and increase comfort for players during their periods. Yahoo Sports

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DEPARTURES

“Every time I thought about not fitting it, I was very jealous.”

— Author Taffy Brodesser-Akner on why she adapted her novel Fleishman is in trouble for the screen itself.

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