Interview: Howard Leonhardt

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Howard LeonhardtFor our first Entrepreneur Interview, we asked Howard Leonhardt about his accomplishments, what he has done to succeed, and why he is involved with Startup California.

About Howard:

Howard Leonhardt is an inventor and serial entrepreneur.  He has 20 U.S. patents for products for treating cardiovascular and heart disease.  Leonhardt has founded 20 companies to date, most them majority funded by his venture firm Leonhardt Ventures and their associated angel networks. Learn more about these ventures and Howard’s work at

1. One isn’t simply born an entrepreneur. How did you become an entrepreneur and why?

My mom sewed pillows and curtains in our basement as an entrepreneur. I opened my first small businesses cleaning up grocery store parking lots, washing cars, and running movie projectors in pizza houses when I was 10. I always had the bug. When IMA Medical Group failed to pay me my owed commissions on export sales of cardiovascular medical products at the rate we agreed upon in advance, I broke away at age 26 to found World Medical Corp.

2. What accomplishment are you most proud of to date?

Inventing over 20 unique new products for treating cardiovascular and heart disease that have helped save the lives of over 180,000 people to date. Starting a company with 2 people with only $3000 starting capital and building up to employ more than 4000 people.

3, What single piece of advice can you give to an entrepreneur who is struggling and may be on the verge of giving up?

Focus on getting one happy customer and build up from there.

4. Why are you involved in Startup California?

I began working for reform to reduce the cost and complexity of startup firms raising capital in 2000 when I joined the advisory board of the University of Florida Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and in 2006 when I founded public policy institute The Entrepreneurship Party Along the way I ran into the folks at Startup America Partnership and loved what they were doing. I strongly believe that the White House initiative to spur private sector leadership in building and improving startup ecosystems really can serve to improve job creation. I was honored to be at the White House Rose Garden this April 5th, 2012, when The JOBS Act and Crowdfunding were signed into law. I believe that Crowdfunding does more to expand opportunity than any legislation since 1933 and that we are on the brink of a innovation, creativity and job growth boom in your country. I am particularly excited to serve as the state spokesperson for The JOBS Act and Crowdfunding for Startup California. I have given 30 speeches around the state to date and have many more on the slate.

5. What do you accomplish first thing every day?

I create a simple list of things to get done at the beginning of each day and then get to work on getting them done.

6. Failure is inevitable as an entrepreneur. How have you bounced back from failure?

One of my favorite teachers Tom Peters teaches “Fail Forward Fast” and “Reward excellent failures and punish mediocre successes.” This is about building a culture of innovation in an organization. There is no doubt that innovation comes from work and in particular work of “trying a lot of stuff and keeping what works.” The particular aspect of American life and culture where we celebrate recovery from failure is one of our greatest strengths as a country. It is one of the reasons most cited for why we continually seem to out innovate our counterparts in Asia and Europe.

7. Tell us about an opportunity you didn’t take that you regret not taking.

One of may favorite quotes on this subject is on the front page of our web site…

“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do th an by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sales. Explore. Discover. Dream.”
–Mark Twain

I regret not launching our TALENT stent graft project when we first built the original prototype in 1991. One doctor ripped our idea apart and we set aside the project for more than 3 years before we picked it back up and moved it forward. We lost a 3 year start in leading the market and had to play catch up.


If you would like to nominate an entrepreneur for our interview series, please e-mail and tell us why we should talk to your nominee about his or her work.

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Written by

Jennifer Newell is the Startup California newsletter editor. As a startup enthusiast and community organizer in San Diego, Jennifer is an original local organizer for Startup Weekend and proudly represents the community with SD Tech Scene. Jennifer is a native of Colorado and tweets as @jennyjenjen.

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