Holly Rockweiler of Madorra is breaking barriers amidst tech’s ‘boys club’ turmoil

Ron Leuty | August 4, 2016

Holly Rockweiler wants to make this clear from the start: Her medical device startup is not making a vibrator.

Instead, her company, called Madorra, is developing a type of pad that when placed in a woman’s underwear — similar to a tampon — stimulates vaginal tissue. It isn’t a sex toy, but renewing vaginal tissue and eliminating vaginal dryness could have a profound impact on women, particularly cancer survivors, who find sex painful or impossible.

Madorra is early in its life, but Rockweiler and others in the space of women’s health and entrepreneurship see potential ahead. For example, five startups at the Fogarty Institute for Innovation at Mountain View’s El Camino Hospital — including Madorra — are led by women, and four of those companies are focused on devices for women or infants. In all, seven “Fog Shop” companies are aimed at helping women or infants.

There is little comparing the relatively small med device space to the huge Bay Area tech industry, where a “boys club” mentality has led to well-documented gender diversity and equality issues. But the Fogarty Institute’s experience may not be an anomaly. More women, for example, are jumping into Stanford University’s BioDesign program, said Christine Kurihara, senior associate director.

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