Strategic and kind, Sarah Jones Simmer leads others to follow their purpose.
Sarah Jones Simmer wants you to find strength in your body.
The chief executive officer of Found, a weight care program “dedicated to improving people’s overall well-being by making evidence-based weight loss accessible and affordable for all,” Jones Simmer lives out her bucket list every day by taking chances on herself in service of others.
For Jones Simmer, who grew up the eldest of four children, her father’s work ethic was a profound example. He carved his own path in the pharmaceutical industry, starting humbly as a janitor and dedicatedly working his way to a role as vice president of technology. His passing approximately eight years ago from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was a significant bookmark in Jones Simmer’s perspective on her life’s calling.
“He found so much joy in work,” shares Jones Simmer with an inflection of lifelong admiration. “He loved teaching; he loved coaching. He felt the purpose of what he did.”
As someone who chose not to pursue a college education, her father placed strong emphasis on being self-sufficient as she was growing up. (She wasn’t allowed to get her learner’s permit until she proved she could change her own oil.) She recalls how he would teach his children how to be financially savvy from an early age, with the latest issue of The Wall Street Journal opened to the stock tickers as they made their cases for which companies they would choose to invest in.
“He had a really high bar. I felt sometimes like making him proud was my single most important goal in life,” says Jones Simmer. “It took me a while to define success on my own terms, and not just through a lens of what my dad would find meaningful.”
As she progressed in her own career, Jones Simmer developed her own set of values and leadership style, though there were some steadfast lessons she inherited from her father: be intentional about your impact and cultivate relationships with the people around you.
Like many others in 2020, Jones Simmer reckoned with a world-changing health issue. At the time, she was a mother to two young children and the chief operating officer of women-led online dating app Bumble. Aged 37 and lacking any prior history with the disease, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The news fundamentally shifted the way she thought about the inevitabilities of life and balancing being engaged in her present while also considering what “fingerprints [she]wants to leave on planet Earth.”
Supported by her team, Jones Simmer designed a new professional life as she underwent cancer treatment. She transitioned into a new role as chief strategy officer and concentrated on taking point for Bumble’s IPO launch to Wall Street—something her investment-minded father would surely be proud of.
“Continuing to do work that I was passionate about provided a much needed distraction from an aggressive treatment regime that has now included dozens of sessions of chemo, 10 surgeries and 37 rounds of radiation over 18 months,” shares Jones Simmer to Bizwomen. “I worked on drafts of our S-1 from the chemo chair and first sent it to the board the morning of my double mastectomy.”
Bumble went public in February 2021. Soon after Jones Simmer applauded as Bumble Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd rang the Nasdaq Stock Market opening bell in their Austin headquarters, she received the news: She no longer had “evidence of disease.”
Her accomplishments during her cancer treatment, along with the big questions around life, career and purpose that she reflected on during the process, empowered her to take a chance on herself and leap toward the role of CEO. She went about it methodically and intentionally, starting by organizing a “spreadsheet with 30 columns with all these boxes I wanted to check in terms of my next role” and narrowing it down to three or four things.
“I ultimately decided it’s about the people I work with,” Jones Simmer says. “I need to get a ton of energy from them and from wanting to work with them, and it needs to be mission-oriented and drive a material impact.”
After seven months on the job market, Jones Simmer joined Found.
The young company fit all of Jones Simmer’s criteria: vision, purpose, product and team. The opportunity to tackle the stigmas around weight reminded her of similar work done at Bumble around dating, especially after how large of a topic health had become in her life.
According to the team, Found is “an evidence-based weight care solution that combines the best of modern medicine with lasting behavior change, access to personalized coaching and a supportive community.” The Found difference lies in the personalization of the program for its members, which takes into account “every factor that makes people unique, including biology, medical history, existent lifestyle and goals” as well as its focus on building a robust medical staff and advisors, as opposed to celebrity testimonials.
“What I really love is the nuance of just how much science and evidence there is,” says Jones Simmer, whose own personal health journey fuels the passion and motivation with which she leads Found. “When we start talking about weight like that, grounded in science, then it’s no longer about willpower and shame and ‘you just didn’t try hard enough.’ [You realize you] were working against your body, not with it.”
Found recently relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to the Springdale General campus in Austin. The leadership team believes that the Austin market has an abundance of talent due to hometown companies like Bumble, Homeaway and Dell, and global brands like Apple, Meta and Google, not to mention the stream of young professionals graduating from the local universities.
“There’s a spirit of collaboration and innovation here that’s attracting world-class folks from other parts of the country,” says Jones Simmer, who has witnessed the growth and cultivated community in Austin since moving to the city with her family eight years ago.
Taking the helm at Found has allowed Jones Simmer to flourish as a decisive and caring leader who leaves space and consideration for her team’s humanity. She’s replicated some of the values that she practiced and benefited from at Bumble and its majority-female workforce in her current role. Jones Simmer is openly proud about encouraging a male senior-level colleague to truly disconnect from work during his upcoming parental leave despite the company’s current workload and advised him that, as one of the company’s leaders, he’s “setting an example around what parental leave should look like and what it means to support the family as a unit.”
It’s an important precedent to set, not just in the policies of a company but also its culture. According to Every Texan, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equitable public policies, 64% of working Texans do not even have unpaid parental leave, nevertheless guaranteed paid time off.
Understandably, Jones Simmer is proud of how being a mother has influenced her leadership style. She recognizes that earlier on in her career she couldn’t quite relate to the challenges that parents faced in balancing their responsibilities, and has since placed high value on the adaptability of professionals with children. Jones Simmer brightens as she shares stories about her relationship with her daughters, how emphasizing strength training in her lifestyle enables her to keep up and bond with her sprightly eldest through rock climbing.
“[When you have a kid], you recognize it’s your job as the parent to create the conditions in which they can be successful,” says Jones Simmer. “You realize that there’s so many applications of that in the workplace as well. How do I cultivate the best in you? There’s something really powerful in trying to nurture that kind of culture.”
Like her father, Jones Simmer understands how a shared purpose can build lasting relationships. She creates a work environment that’s challenging in a way that’s also motivating and takes pride in “watching rising leaders grow.” Under Jones Simmer’s leadership, there’s a lot to celebrate at Found. It’s raised over $130 million from investors and served more than 200,000 Americans as one of the largest medically assisted weight loss clinics in the country. According to the company’s findings, a quarter of Found members lose 15% of their body weight after following the program for over a year.
“But even more important than the loss is the life they found. That’s where the name comes from,” says Jones Simmer. “Stories of people being able to keep up with their kids on the playground or getting out and doing the things they love in the world—that’s why we do this, right?”
It’s all about an improved quality of life at Found. With the focus on weight “care” as opposed to weight “loss,” the program also emphasizes getting members to better health outcomes, like getting off hypertension medication, avoiding diabetes and reversing back pain. Shame is not a factor in Found’s program, but rather the program centers self-acceptance and increased capability.
Every year, millions of Americans go on diets in an attempt to lose weight. Their reasons are as far reaching as they are varied: health, appearance, lifestyle, prejudice. However, restrictive diets are now largely recognized as ineffective, whether it’s because they’re not sustainable or because our bodies are predispositioned to adjust for our survival. Often, diet is prescribed as a fix-all cure, and the responsibility of “failed” results is laid upon the individual. But that doesn’t acknowledge everything else that affects someone’s body and health.
“[We understand] what might be going through their mind and the place of vulnerability they’re in, and we meet them at that same level,” says Jones Simmer. “We want them to come to us because they feel like we’re experts clinically, but we’re also advocates for them.”
Jones Simmer feels a particular kinship with members who are reclaiming their health. She recognizes how much of a “privilege” it is that she got so much emotional and professional support from her team during the most taxing parts of her cancer treatment and that she was able to get treated in the first place; for her, it has contextualized the difficulties and inequalities that others face.
“[Cancer] has certainly made me think about activism and standing up for access to health care in all forms. It has motivated a lot of my willingness to stand up for what I believe in on multiple fronts within the company, but [also]beyond that, as an individual,” says Jones Simmer, who appreciates the “unique inflection point” in health care that she gets to address through her work at Found.
She frames her future in five-year chunks, a mentality she feels balances both the urgency of limited time and the potential of infinite possibilities in a way that is feasible. She leans into her role as an active agent of her life, always considering how each of her goals interconnects for maximum and efficient impact. Throughout her cancer journey she’s developed a “live out your bucket list now” philosophy, one that’s empowered her to pursue her priorities openly and unapologetically.
“I gave myself permission to invest in getting stronger, to take care of my health,” says Jones Simmer. “I carve out a lot more time for kids’ stuff on my calendar now than I once did. I do it on a public calendar intentionally. I want [my team]to feel like they have permission for that too.”
Jones Simmer’s philosophies are inspiring. It’s difficult not to recognize her as someone that is pursuing their calling and should be trusted. She acknowledges that strength is a waste unless it’s being utilized to create a meaningful life for herself and others. When asked what could be accomplished if more people adopted similar values, Jones Simmer says, “It makes me think about legacy. I don’t mean legacy in the wills and trust sort of way, but what do I want my life to mean? I really do feel like our purpose here is to know love. At the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.”