Cindy Eckert

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Cindy Eckert (formerly Whitehead)

Cindy Eckert (formerly Whitehead) is an American entrepreneur who built and sold two pharmaceutical companies, notably Sprout Pharmaceuticals, creator of “female Viagra,” for more than $1B. She subsequently founded The Pink Ceiling which invests in companies founded by, or delivering products for, women. The Pink Ceiling's incubator - dubbed The Pinkubator - is based in Raleigh, NC.[1] Eckert was featured on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine's Women to Watch issue in January 2016.[2] In November 2017, Eckert re-acquired Sprout Pharmaceuticals, and the rights to its drug Addyi, from Valeant.[3]

Early life[edit]

Cindy Eckert was born in upstate New York. According to a New York Times profile piece, she attended a different school each year from the fourth grade through the twelfth. During those years she lived overseas where her father Fred Eckert served as a US Ambassador to Fiji. [4] She graduated from Marymount University in Virginia.[5]


Eckert began her career with Merck, before moving on to work with smaller, specialty pharmaceutical companies Dura and Elan.[5] After a stint with QVC, Eckert returned to the healthcare space to found two pharmaceutical companies - Slate Pharmaceuticals and Sprout Pharmaceuticals - both of which she sold.[1]

She sold Sprout to Valeant in 2015 after the company won FDA approval for the drug Addyi, the first drug designed to enhance female libido.[6] Prior to founding Sprout, Eckert co-founded Slate Pharmaceuticals in 2007. Slate was focused on men's sexual health with an FDA approved long acting testosterone product, Testopel. Slate sold in 2011 to Actient Pharmaceuticals.[7]

Eckert established an investment firm called The Pink Ceiling in 2016 after the most recent exit, when she sold Sprout Pharmaceuticals to Valeant Pharmaceuticals for $1 billion.[8] In November 2017, Eckert re-acquired Sprout Pharmaceuticals from Valeant for "almost nothing", according to Bloomberg.[3]

Her exits total $1.5 billion[5][9]

In 2018, Eckert formally changed her name from Cindy Whitehead.[10]

The Pink Ceiling[edit]

Eckert launched the Pink Ceiling in order to improve access to capital for female-led start-ups.[1] “The injustice I’m fighting with the Pink Ceiling is not only women’s limited access to capital, but also their limited access to mentors,” she told Entrepreneur Magazine.[1] Eckert works with a team of women to determine which female-led companies will be the recipients of venture capital funding.[11][12]

To date, The Pink Ceiling has invested in eleven start-ups, with public announcements on their involvement with Undercover Colors (a company that is developing wearable nail tech to detect the presence of a date rape drug in drinks),[8] Lia Diagnostics (which produces a flushable pregnancy test),[13] Intuitap (which has a medical device aimed to streamline the spinal tap procedure),[1] and Pursuit (which is developing a patented technology to improve four different aspects of sleep)[14]

The Pink Ceiling's affiliated incubator, called the “Pinkubator” because of its female focus, is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The “Pinkubator” was established to provide female-focused entrepreneurs with direct access to mentors, investment opportunities, and business development guidance.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e "This Entrepreneur Who Sold Her Company for $1 Billion Wants You to Throw Out the Unwritten Rules That Hold You Back". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  2. ^ "2016's Women To Watch". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  3. ^ a b "Valeant Gives $1 Billion Female Libido Pill Back to Old Owners". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  4. ^ "Cindy Whitehead: No Nickname? Just Leave That to Me". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  5. ^ a b c d "Woman behind female libido drug launches 'Pinkubator' for women-focused businesses". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  6. ^ "CEO of company behind Addyi says female sexuality is about biology, not just psychology". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  7. ^ "Company Overview of Slate Pharmaceuticals, Inc". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  8. ^ a b "The woman behind 'female Viagra' sold her company for $1 billion — that's when everything fell apart". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  9. ^ "How To Make Millions Off Your Exit: 7 Entrepreneurs Worth Over $2 Billion Explain". Retrieved 2017-08-05.
  10. ^ "'Female Viagra' Founder Is Back as CEO After Valeant Gave the Billion-Dollar Drug Back for Free". Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  11. ^ "How I Get It Done: Cindy Whitehead, the Creator of 'Female Viagra'". Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  12. ^ "Exclusive: The Woman Behind the 'Female Viagra' Has a New Venture". Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  13. ^ "Philly startup creates new pregnancy test". Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  14. ^ "Unapologetically Pink". Retrieved 2017-08-11.