Crowdfunding Industry Spotlight #5: Howard Leonhardt

  • Editor's Note: Each week I put a crowdfunding industry thought leader in the spotlight and ask them ten questions to inspire and educate. This week I am excited to interview one of the first people I had the pleasure of meeting in this industry: Howard Leonhardt, Founder, Chairman & CEO of The California Stock Xchange.


    Howard based in Santa Monica, California is an inventor with over 21 pioneering patents for products for treating cardiovascular and heart disease and a serial entrepreneur having founded more than 28 startups. His inventions have been used to treat over 200,000 patients in 60 countries and have generated more than $3 billion in revenues. His Leonhardt Ventures fund, venture creation lab and angels network has raised and put to work more than $145 million since 1982, primarily in stem cell related therapies for fighting heart failure. The Cal-X Stars Business Accelerator has 14 cardiovascular and 14 social good impact innovation startups in its 2014 portfolio class.


    Leonhard holds a Diploma in International Trade from Anoka Technical College and has attended courses at the University of Minnesota, Anoka-Ramsey Community College and UCLA Extension. He has received honorary degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Northern California (Doctorate in Biomedical Engineering) and recognition as South Florida Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003 and Florida Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004.


    Q: How did you get into crowdfunding and what was it that attracted you to this industry?

    In 1986 I set out to raise capital to commercialize my first invention of a improved cardiovascular balloon catheter and found out that I could not advertise and could only sell to 35 non-accredited investors and to accredited investors that I already had a substantial pre-existing relationship with advance. This stunted my ability to raise capital and delayed market release of my products.


    In 2000 as a board member of the University of Florida Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation I authored a white paper on the importance of reducing the cost and complexity of raising capital for small businesses as a catalyst to job creation and economic growth. In 2006 I spun out The Entrepreneurship Party Public Policy Institute and began working on lobbying for financial reform. In 2008 I took my company Bioheart, Inc. public on NASDAQ and it cost us $4.8 million to raise $6.5 million. After this experience I stepped up my work on financial reform. This eventually resulted in helping to get the JOBS ACT passed via Pop Vox and other services. In March of 2012 I published the blog essay The Enormous Implications of Crowdfunding that received national attention on many fronts...


    I was invited to the White House to be with the President for the signing ceremony of the JOBS ACT April of 2012 in The Rose Garden. A group led by the Startup America Partnership in consultation with the White House Office of Science & Technology asked me to be a spokesperson for the State of California for the JOBS ACT and Crowdfunding via Startup California and I accepted. I have given over 60 speeches on the subject since that time and formed both The California Stock Xchange and Cal-X Crowdfund Connect both private companies providing crowdfunding resources.


    Q: What’s the most common question people ask you about your job and how do you respond?

    How do you possibly launch 28 companies, serve on a dozen university and charitable foundation boards, pubic policy institute service AND a run for Lt. Governor of California and have a life


    Response: Most my life I have focused intensely on a few things. In the 1980's improved cardiovascular balloon catheters. In the 1990's stent grafts. In the 2000's stem cell repair of hearts. Only since 2008 when I moved to California have I really broadened out. I agree it is impossible to do so many things well. The chance to do many things is a luxury built on the hard work of my past intense focus.


    I know I could make more money focusing on just one thing, but that is not my primary driving goal now in the 2nd chapter of my life. Even though it seems I am doing many things for me it really breaks down to 2 simple things - 1. Developing breakthrough cardiovascular innovations and 2. Social good impact work to help others - giving back. I believe in this quote from Richard Branson whom I had a chance to spend a day with in Aspen in 2010...


    “There is no real difference between work and play – it’s all living” says Richard Branson


    Q: Did you have a mentor or is there someone who inspires you as a leader? How did/do they impact on your career and life?

    I am very lucky to have had some great personal mentors in my life and some I have learned so much from by reading about their lives.


    Personal mentors...

    1. Adam Sanford - Founder of Adam Spence Corporation - taught me about treating people well.
    2. Allen Tower - Founder of Numed - taught me how to run a medical manufacturing plant.
    3. Dr. Thomas Fogarty - Inventor and founder of over a dozen companies in med tech sector - taught me how to turn innovations into commercial successes. 
    4. Ken Durbin - Fighter Pilot and Entrepreneur - taught me to have courage.
    5. Richard Spencer - Former President Cordis Corporation - taught me how to get organized and how to manage people effectively. 
    6. Bill George - CEO Medtronic, Harvard Professor - taught me how to be an authentic leader. 
    7. The 14th Dalai Lama - Have met with him twice - taught me how to control my mind to avoid suffering. 
    8. Jeb Bush - Governor of Florida, brother of one President, Son of another - taught me the meaning of self reliance, taught me about politics.
    9. Dan Marino - Hall of Fame Quarterback - taught me about true grit determination to win.
    10. Rob Thomas - Lead singer Matchbox Twenty - 30 million records sold - taught me about persistence and dedication to product.



    Non-Personal mentors...

    1. Thomas Edison - Inventor - taught me persistence and how to run an innovation R&D lab.
    2. Richard Branson - Entrepreneur - spent a day with him - taught me to treat all people well and to market name brand as core.
    3. Tom Peters - Author and Public Speaker - learned more about how to innovate from this guy then anyone else.
    4. Earl Bakken - Founder of Medtronic - taught me the importance of a Ready, Fire, Aim strategy.
    5. Steve Jobs - Founder Apple Computer - taught me how to market innovation and how to avoid VCs controlling your strategic plan. 
    6. Alfred Mann - Founder Many MedTech Cos. - taught me to divide technologies into separate companies by use of product.


    Q: What is the biggest challenge facing crowdfunding as an industry today and what solutions would you suggest?

    We need to get everyone to commit to crowdfund 10% of their income. It should be sold as a patriotic duty. We need to market this in a big big way.


    Q: What advice would you give someone trying to get into crowdfunding right now?

    It is all about a full out full time marketing campaign with these components...


    1. Getting your 150 closest followers to each get 3 investors/donors. Hold them accountable. Constant peer pressure contact.
    2. Have events where peer pressure to invest or donate is intense and make it easy to take action at the peak of emotional impact.
    3. Emotional clear videos that compel immediate action. Larger than life videos. A video that compels action is super important however you must CALL by phone every person watching the video and ASK personally for their investment or donation. Do not expect them to just watch your video and then take action on their own without the followup peer pressure of a call or meeting. 
    4. Content marketing again and again and again.
    5. Getting the top bloggers in your sector behind you.
    6. Getting the top opinion leaders in your sector behind you.
    7. Dominating the buzz of the major trade shows in your industry.
    8. Big publicity stunts that garner massive attention.
    9. Engagement of a community.
    10. You are running a campaign to change the world, an uprising, a cause far bigger than any product.
    11. Sell, sell, sell, sell.
    12. Realize crowdfunding comes in one person at a time. Engage people IN PERSON and ask for their help IN PERSON.
    13. Find ever creative ways to apply peer pressure.
    14. Get people on the phone that you cannot meet in person. Email does not work. Social media does not work.
    15. Have a product you can deliver now with a grander one later.


    Q: What resources and events (blogs, books, conferences, podcasts, videos, etc) would you recommend to someone looking to become a crowdfunding expert and why?

    I think Ruth Hedges Crowdfunding Bootcamp is great - you can learn everything you need to know about crowdfunding at her event. Crowdfund Beat run by Sydney Armani is an excellent source of up to date information. The CrowdImpact events we co-sponsor with are excellent. Chic-CEO is and amazing resource for female entrepreneurs. Study carefully the great crowdunding campaigns like Star Citizen's $44 million raise.  


    Q: What are you doing to make sure you continue to grow and develop as an industry leader?

    Hosting the upcoming CNBC show Crowdfund The American Dream is obviously a big way of participating myself. Clifford Cohen created this show and asked me to join him and we together sold it to Go Go Luckey Productions and then all of us teamed together to get the show sold to NBC whom chose to air it on their CNBC network. I was honored that they gave me a contract to be a co-host and mentor on the show. I will continue to be a spokesperson for Crowdfunding for Startup California which includes regular blog essays on the subject. I will continue to build The California Stock Xchange, Cal-X Crowdfund Connect, the Cal-X Funders Club and Cal-X Microloans.


    Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how social networking and Web 2.0 have affected your organization or you personally?

    It makes it so much easier to quickly share great relevant news stories to a wider audience than ever before. I make about a dozen posts every day on Linkedin, Facebook, Google + and Twitter and sometimes Instagram. Always links relevant to the projects of Leonhardt Ventures except my own personal Facebook page for my friends and family which is softer and more personal.


    Q: What do you think the crowdfunding space will look like five years from now?

    I think most people are underestimating the profound societal impact crowdfunding will have. Five years from now we will be reaping the benefits of an un-precedented era of new creation, innovation, creativity and economic growth all fueled by crowdfunding. Our un-employment in the USA will be at its historic lowest level ever. Everyone will be crowdfunding something in 5 years.


    Q: What ultimate goal are you working towards?

    I hope the California Stock Exchange will help usher in an era where "doing well by doing good" becomes the norm rather than the exception. We wish for Cal-X Crowfund Connect to be leading resource provide for those building crowdfunding campaigns backed by our Startup Media Services team at Kindheart Lionheart Media that creates high emotional impact videos like this one we created for one of our most successful Leonhardt Ventures startups.


    My personal goal is to follow through on bringing the breakthrough innovations we have developed in our own Leonhardt Ventures laboratories to full release to help save millions of lives and create thousands of jobs. Heart failure treatment and care is the leading economic drain on Medicare, the leading cause of hospitalization and 25 million people are about to die from heart failure in the next 5 years. These include...


    1. The first wireless energy devices that can direct stem cell regeneration of any organ or wound they are pointed towards - STEMERGY, AortaCell, DentaCell. 
    2. The first implantable stem cell pumps for organ regeneration including hearts - BioLeonhardt and Stem Cell Pump.
    3. The first biological pacemaker made entirely of living cells - BioPace.
    4. The first heart pacemakers able to recruit stem cells and grow new muscle in failing hearts -
    5. The first device to decalcify and cell sod repair heart valve leaflet so patients can keep their own heart valves instead of getting implants - Valvublator. 
    6. The first woman's bra the recruits her own stem cells to her breast tissue for augementation to avoid the need for implants - STEM CELL BRA
    7. The first implantable heart sensor placed with a catheter - ISSYS LV SENS. 
    8. Muscle stem cell repair of damaged and failing hearts -
    9. Improved circulatory assist pumps - and


    We also want our Kindheart Lionheart Media Company to produce, publish and distribute the most inspiring works in books, movies, music, TV and radio with crowdfunding aiding these goals every step of the way. Our Radio Veronica USA online radio station is set up to help listeners crowdfund into a portion of the ownership of publishing right of songs they love - We are about to publish the inspirational book Dolphin Smiles: The Legend of Kindheart Lionheart about a dolphin that remembers his previous life as a human and have dreams of turning that into a feature length movie. We co-produced last year the inspirational film MELODY that placed in the finals of the 168 Film Festival $1 million Contest. The Kindheart Lionheart TV Network is set to air inspirational shows including our new internally produced series California Love We are making a clear run with this network at competing with Maker Studios and NetFlix. Our Kindheart Lionheart Inspirational Book Club is currently our most popular product. 





1 comment

(200 symbols max)

(256 symbols max)