Skip to main content
Back to Designisms.

A conversation with the 2019 winners of the Robert Howard Next Step Award

McKinsey Design and Stanford Biodesign award this year’s Robert Howard Next Step Award for innovation in health + medical design.

Since 2012, LUNAR Design, now part of McKinsey Design, together with the Stanford Biodesign program, created the Robert Howard Next Step award in memory of our beloved colleague.  Robert had an affinity for this program and donated time to help teams get their ideas commercialized through teaching and mentorship. The award is a gift of roughly 200 consulting hours to a team exhibiting an exceptional idea for addressing an important clinical need—and who can benefit from our capabilities in design, whether user-centered research to sharpen the value proposition, product design to embody the idea or development engineering to prove technical feasibility.

Since that time, we have helped a dozen Biodesign teams to get their medtech ideas to the next step—commercialization. Some landmarks achieved over the past year include: EarBuddy, the 2018 winner, just received a $100,000 Coulter grant; Tueo Health—born from this program—was just purchased by Apple; and Cadence Health has recently launched their birth control management beta online. We are very proud to be involved with all these amazing teams and ingenious innovations.

A conversation with the 2019 winners of the Robert Howard Next Step Award
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

Selecting a winner for this year’s award was especially tough, with an impressive array of applicants, from Singapore to Palo Alto. We caught up with this year’s winners, Amanda Calabrese and Greta Meyer who are the inventors of Tempo. Tempo re-engineered the tampon with a new design that promises to empower menstruating persons by eliminating tampon leakage. The patent pending design changes the product geometry to increase the efficiency of the tampon and eliminate leakage channels.

Check out the Q&A below to learn more about the importance of women’s health:

Introduce yourself.

We are both Product Design Engineering undergraduates at Stanford University graduating this week! As two former high-level athletes and female engineers, we have always been extremely passionate about the intersection of sport and women’s health. Tempo was an incredible opportunity to combine our experiences on the field and the water with our engineering training to use technology to solve a real-world problem. We will be pursuing Tempo full-time after graduation this summer and could not be more excited to see where it all goes!

A conversation with the 2019 winners of the Robert Howard Next Step Award
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

How did you discover the RHNS Award? What attracted you to it?

One of our friends in the bioengineering undergraduate program forwarded along the application and really encouraged us to apply. She knew we would greatly benefit from the guidance of McKinsey Design and “hyped us up” to send our materials in. We knew our chances would be slim given the stiff competition from faculty, masters and PHD students with years of experience in their fields, but as always, we brought our passion and energy to give us the best chance. We were attracted to the RHNS award because it focuses on need and the impact of the solution more than anything. We truly believe Tempo can change the way we manufacture and think about tampons and feminine hygiene; we also definitely need all the help we can get to make that a reality.

What is your project? What does it solve for in the current healthcare market?

Tempo has mechanically reengineered the tampon to regain consumer trust and provide a distraction-free menstrual experience. Through a reshaping of the product, we are extending the time until leakage (by 8.5x!) and bringing the only differentiated tampon product within the space. Not only does Tempo “even the playing field” by allowing the freedom to not worry about whether a tampon will leak in a game or meeting, but we are creating a brand around a high-performance entity. There are very few products in the healthcare and wellness market today that cater to the modern, active needs of those with periods. We see this trend in clothing and fitness, so why not in healthcare!

A conversation with the 2019 winners of the Robert Howard Next Step Award
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

Did you learn anything particularly insightful during your in-personal finalist presentation?

We were given the opportunity to think critically about how we will see this product evolve from sketches and prototypes to a real, usable tampon. It was insightful to hear the panelists thoughts on our manufacturing strategy, and how important it will be for us to be in Europe at our factory throughout the process. We discussed topics ranging from supply chain management to FDA regulation, to fundraising, all items on our list to tackle this summer. Our passion to push this forward was certainly felt by the panel, and to us, that was extremely gratifying.

How will McKinsey Design help you with your project goals?

We see this award as a way to take everything we hoped to accomplish this summer to the next level. Since we began Tempo in the fall of 2018 we have been moving at an insanely rapid pace. McKinsey Design will help us drive that forward motion throughout the next few months. We are looking forward the most to help with developing a higher-res prototype than we have already, brand identity work, as well as working on the beginnings of our FDA regulatory strategy for when we plan to launch in the US.

A conversation with the 2019 winners of the Robert Howard Next Step Award
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

How do you hope the world will benefit from Tempo?

Like we said before, we believe Tempo has the opportunity to change the way we not only manufacture tampons and design them but also they way we think about their categorization as a product. Why should those with periods feel stigmatized by a product they need once a month? We feel that tampons and other menstrual products should be considered part of a person's necessary equipment to tackle whatever comes at them in the day, much like what anyone needs to play their best.

Anything else you’d like to mention or for the world to know about women’s health/menstruation in general.

Tempo is a much-needed update to the feminine hygiene space. The tampon design we use today was patented in 1931 by a man and has been changed very little since then. We know it’s time for an update and the over 200 users we have interviewed feel just as strongly. While new innovative products like menstrual cups and discs are hitting shelves, 70% of  those with periods in the United States still use tampons, making them consistently the most popular option alongside pads. We believe fixing what people already trust and use will make innovation the most impactful in this antiquated space.

Connect with Design

Interested in learning more?