Madison Campbell

Co-Founder of Leda Health

Madison Campbell is a trailblazer and sexual assault advocate. After going to college to study epidemiology in space populations, Madison has become a well seasoned entrepreneur. She started a company prior to Leda Health called “Iyanu,” which was a software development shop based in Lagos, Nigeria. Today, she is working hard to promote the autonomy and self-actualization of sexual assault survivors through Leda Health by developing and providing resources to help them overcome their difficult trauma.

During her time studying at the University of Edinburgh, Madison was sexually assaulted in her dorm room. She was wrought with an intense assortment of emotions – fear, guilt, shame, and confusion. Immediately she bottled her difficult emotions. She did not share with her family members or closest friends. Instead, she cut her long blonde hair and purchased boxed dye from the drugstore, dyeing her hair jet black. At the time, this was all that Madison could think of to cope.

In the years after her assault, Madison began to explore the reasons for which she did not report. She wondered how frequently situations like hers came to pass. In her research, she found that 77% of sexual assault survivors in the United States do not report their assaults to authorities. She also found that someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. In her solution-driven spirit, Madison queried: How can we make reporting more accessible for survivors who cannot bring themselves to seek traditional forms of help? Where can gaps be closed so that survivors can heal at their own pace?

To answer these questions, Madison founded Leda Health – formerly MeToo Kits Company. With the help of her good friend and computer science expert, Liesel Vaidya, the Chief Technology Officer of Leda Health, Madison began looking into self-DNA collection. It is often that sexual assault survivors submit their own evidence after being assaulted – garments, blankets, and all manner of other physical evidence. Madison and Liesel then decided on the production of a self-use DNA collection kit, which would ultimately help survivors collect time-sensitive DNA material while preserving their autonomy.

As Leda Health grew, so too did the solutions Madison and Liesel conjured. Beyond the kit, Leda Health is expanding its offerings to emergency contraception, STI testing, and support groups for both sexual assault survivors and those who have caused harm. Altogether, Leda Health is evolving into a safe haven for sexual assault survivors of all walks of life and at all stages of healing.

Where did the idea for Leda Health come from?

Liesel and I came up with the idea for Leda Health after realizing that most sexual assault survivors in the United States do not seek traditional forms of help. We wanted to provide another avenue for survivors to receive the care that they need. After being assaulted, survivors are overwhelmed by a bunch of different things. They are obviously emotionally distraught, dealing with complex and unexpected feelings that are difficult to unpack immediately. They have to decide within 72 hours whether or not they will change their clothes and shower or rush to a hospital where they can get a rape kit conducted. They have to figure out how to tell their friends and family members, if at all. From a trauma-informed perspective, the initial paralysis is understandable. I experienced it myself. What we wanted was to make sure that this paralysis does not preclude survivors from moving forward with justice or healing in the future.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I usually wake up to my dog barking, either wanting to play or do his business outside. After that is all said and done I usually take a shower (negligible when you’re 3 years into a relationship, of course). I definitely use deodorant.

The rest of the day consists of answering emails, taking meetings, and scrolling through Twitter. The thing that makes my day most productive, surprisingly, is my chair. An absurdly expensive chair that is ergonomic and shaped like the pilot’s seat of a spaceship, but helps me sit comfortably in whatever position I choose as I deal with emails and meetings that could probably have been emailed.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We bring ideas to life at Leda Health by being extremely determined, to the point where it borders on delusion. When I first started the company, I called everyone I possibly knew to bounce ideas off of. I asked for as many introductions as I could as well – basically anything I can do to take whatever ideas I have and make them more well-rounded (and, selfishly, to validate them as viable).

As for team-wide, we conduct feedback surveys where everyone on the team is able to give input on everything we do. This includes the kits, our websites, our models, our company culture. We really value the voices of our team members and I’m surprised they’re not sick of me yet.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Honestly, the four-day work week. One reason I became an entrepreneur in the first place was because I could not stand to have other people create my schedule for me. I need the flexibility to work at my own pace. I’ve also noticed that the more time spent working doesn’t necessarily mean more productivity. Creative sparks don’t happen at all points of the day, or even at all points of the week. People are expected to exhaust themselves working and neglect their personal endeavors. There’s a lot we can do with an extra day.

Ideally, there’d be a zero-day work week. That’s going to take a while.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Like many other entrepreneurs, I have a caffeine addiction. You won’t catch me without a tea or a coffee on my desk while I’m getting to work. I truly have caffeine to thank for Leda’s existence at all.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell my younger self that every idea is worth exploring. In my experience, adults do a lot of telling kids which ideas have value and which don’t. I can tell you firsthand that, even if one idea is not feasible in itself, it can lead to other ideas that are. We don’t get innovation by telling people what they can and can’t come up with. I’ve been trying to follow this advice a lot in my adult life, and it’s what led me to building Leda to this point.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Institutions can change if we want them to. The United States in particular, and I’m sure the entire world, has been dealing with the same problems for literal centuries. Some of these problems are systemic, meaning that they will exist so long as the institutions as we know them exist. In the past few years, we have seen community activists working from the ground up to achieve real change to our fundamental institutions. We are now seeing that the will to change is growing. We need to keep working toward change, not fear it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always reevaluate. It hurts my pride to say it, but doubt can either kill your ideas or strengthen your resolve in them. Building Leda Health has taught me how to take criticism and use it to reevaluate our products, services, and models over and over again. Whether they change or not, I’m able to get a better feel for how things can improve, so long as I’m reevaluating. Nothing is promised, but everything is available.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Surprisingly, being active on Twitter has helped me grow my business immensely. There’s a lot to be said for memes and funny quips when they’re communicated to the right people. I’ve connected with a lot of other founders and entrepreneurs through Twitter – even securing some investments through it. I’ve gotten great feedback on what we’re working on and have gotten a lot of support, all through Twitter. As advice to other founders, think outside the box! You never know what you may end up with.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Oh boy, I’ve had several. The main failure that I’m still suffering the ramifications of is being too hasty at the very beginning of a project. When Leda Health was MeToo Kits Company, I sent emails to universities all over the country to shop our idea around – before the idea was even fleshed out. There was more backlash than I could’ve imagined, from universities to district attorneys to congress members. I learned to tread very lightly and, again, reevaluate decisions before executing them. The best way for us to overcome this was to take in the criticism. Apart from the heightened emotions, some of the response we received was valid. We took the time to actually listen to what people were saying and incorporate it into future decisions.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

One idea I came up with on a whim was a dissolvable pod of honey for your tea. Kind of like a Tide pod, but without the toxic chemicals. I’m a big fan of tea, and I’d be so cool to have the perfect amount of honey every time.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent $100 on an x-ray for my dog because he was having trouble going up the stairs. We thought he might have hip dysplasia. Turns out he has no physical problems and just doesn’t feel like going up the stairs anymore.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Slack has changed my entire life. I can’t imagine doing any team communication without it. It’s so efficient and allows us to see who is working when, as well as allows us to communicate in an organized way. I recommend it for any remote workplace.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I always recommend “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” by Ryan Holiday. It absolutely blew my mind when I read it. It shows the ins and outs of communicating through media, and how best to use what is known about media to reach your goals.

What is your favorite quote?

Upon meeting one of the Leda Health team members in person, she said “Wow, you’re so tiny!” No quote has stuck with me like that one. A close second, though, would be “There is no one way to recover and heal from any trauma. Each survivor chooses their own path,” from Laurie Matthew.

Key Learnings:

  • Leda Health, founded by Madison Campbell, is a company focused on helping sexual assault survivors heal at their own pace.
  • Madison brings ideas to life by exploring them in-depth with peers and mentors.
  • Madison believes that institutions have the ability to change.
  • Madison has used Twitter as a means of growing Leda Health, communicating with peers, mentors, and investors openly.