After Cindy Eckert sold her company to pharma giant Valeant in 2015, she had no idea that she would be at the center of one of the most unusual pharma deals in recent history.
Here’s a quick summary: Eckert had been the CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the company behind female libido drug Addyi. She sold the startup to Valeant for $1 billion, sued Valeant for failing to commercialize the drug, and got her company back for free.
Months after the billion-dollar sale, Eckert and much of her team were let go from the company. So she decided to make the pivot from operator to investor. In the last two years, Eckert has been running The Pink Ceiling, a cross between a VC fund, incubator, and consulting firm with a focus on women. She has deployed $15 million of her own capital across 10 health tech startups. She previously told Fortune her investment strategy is to “make other women really fucking rich.”
“In the last two years, I’ve had to sit on the other side of the table,” Eckert told Fortune. “I’ve dealt with founders, and I’ve gotten to make bets on women who have been overlooked by venture capitalists.”
Eckert has backed women-led health tech startups such as Lia Diagnostics, a flushable pregnancy test maker. “Only a woman can invent that,” Eckert says.
The biggest lesson that female founders can take away, according to Eckert, is that being underestimated is an asset.
“Prepare to be underestimated,” she said. “When you’re underestimated, use it as an invitation to surprise people when you show up and kill with competence.”
Watch the video above for more on the winding path of one of the most relentless, outspoken, and controversial entrepreneurs in health care.