I almost didn’t read this article. The title about stopped me in my tracks. However, I am glad I did. This article is about Cindy Whitehead, billionaire and woman’s advocate. This article talks about how she supports women, fighting the injustices we face daily. Here is a quote that, for me, sums up this well done article.
“Whitehead said the difficult journey to get Addyi approved sparked a passion in her to stand up for women and the disparities they face.”
Original Article at www.wral.com
Raleigh, N.C. — Many know her for spearheading the FDA approval of the first female libido-enhancing drug referred to as the “female Viagra.”
But fewer people know Cindy Whitehead as an investor, mentor and women's rights advocate, who has a specific goal: “to make women really rich.”
Whitehead started her own venture capital fund, The Pink Ceiling, with the goal of investing in female-led companies and the ideas of women.
She said she simply wants to make women rich, promote more products created by females and be the investor behind it.
"We invest in things that we relate to and that we like and that resonate with us which is why more women have to sit on my side of the table. And I'm going to get them there," Whitehead said.
Using her own journey from pharmaceutical salesperson to selling her own pharmaceutical company for a billion dollars as inspiration, Whitehead wants to help women create a tangible plan to be successful and make money.
The northern Virginia native's first job out of college was at the pharmaceutical company Merck. She came to the Triangle 13 years ago to start Slate, which specialized in male sexual medicine.
"I went progressively smaller until I started my own business, and that's when I came to North Carolina," she said.
After being wildly successful, Whitehead made an unexpected decision.
"At the time there were 26 drugs. 26 FDA-approved drugs for some of male sexual dysfunction and not a single one for women,” she explained. “And that's what prompted me selling off Slate."
To change this, against the advice of practically everyone, she said, she sold Slate to start Sprout.
At Sprout, she focused entirely on getting female arousal pill Addyi on the shelves. The female-libido enhancing drug is commonly referred to as the “female Viagra.”
“We assign a lot to the psychology for women. Psychology is at play in sex for women to be sure, but so is biology. And when we were accepting that for men and not for women, it just didn’t make sense to me,” Whitehead said.
Though the science isn't the same, Whitehead said the medication works over time.
“(I’m) so proud of the science. We studied Addyi in over 11,000 women. So we had 3 times as much data as the leading male drug that had been approved. And while they got approved in 6 months, it took us 6 years," Whitehead said.
After finally getting Addyi approved by the Food and Drug Administration, she sold the company for $1 billion.
“We sold the company. We got the drug approved, and I guess I got the entrepreneur’s dream come true. I had a big company come in with deep pockets and the ability to march it across the globe.”
Whitehead said the difficult journey to get Addyi approved sparked a passion in her to stand up for women and the disparities they face.
"I'm fueled by injustice. I probably have been my whole life, and so now I look at the injustices not only in women's health but in inherent dismissiveness or lack of willingness to innovate for that population," Whitehead said.
The Pink Ceiling is now an endeavor that specifically seeks out female leaders in the health and technology industries.
"They're for women, they're by women, and almost all of them are these great, novel, patented technologies," she said.
Ventures include Undercover Colors, a wearable technology that detects date rape drugs, and Fathom, a censor to watch deviations in movements for athletes to predict whether they may be injured.
Both companies are based right in the Triangle. Whitehead has invested more than $10 million dollars into local businesses, making her one of the biggest venture capitalists in North Carolina.
"We're not coming in saying I am the next unicorn, we're just the workhorses. We put our heads down, and we do the work, and that's why the next billion dollar company is coming out of here," Whitehead said.
In terms of the path of Addyi, the company that bought the drug for $1 billion sold it back to Whitehead for almost nothing after internal legal turmoil.
Addyi has never made it on the shelves, and Whitehead said she’s determined to change that.
"Maybe I'm wired that way. There is unfinished business. Women still deserve access to this treatment and then they get to decide. That's my definition of success," she said.
Whitehead may be a billionaire, but she wants more women in the “billionaire club.”
“I’m one of very few in that group, and that’s not right,” she said. “At the Pinkubator, we tease that our mission is to make women really rich, and that elicits a certain response, and that tells me we’re uncomfortable with that.”