Coronado’s Howard Lindzon A Rock Star In The Financial Investment World - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Home And Business

Coronado’s Howard Lindzon A Rock Star In The Financial Investment World

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Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 6:09 pm

My qualifications to interview Coronado resident and financial guru Howard Lindzon admittedly were pretty sketchy. Early in our interview I admitted to being one of the only investors in the San Diego area who actually lost money on Qualcomm stock. Lindzon laughed and said, “You are just one of the few to admit it.”

Lindzon, 50, was born in Toronto, Canada, the son of Irving and Sandra Lindzon who both still reside in Toronto. His family included sisters Fern and Robin. Some portion of that background explains his love of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, although he readily admits that lately there is nothing to love. Lindzon added, “If the Blue Jays make it to the World Series, I’ll go back for a game.”

A self-described late bloomer, Lindzon made up for lost time with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Western Ontario, followed by dual Master’s degrees from Arizona State University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Lindzon described his first foray into money management. “Well, I was living in the states and I needed any job that I could prove to stay in the country. I entered as a stockbroker at Eppler, Guerin and Turner out of Phoenix, which is a Texas firm. I learned the brokerage business from the sales side and I loved it. At ASU and Thunderbird, it was more about learning about me. I had good teachers and I did really well in finance. In school I was into the numbers and the case studies.”

Another benefit of living in Phoenix was meeting and eventually marrying his wife Ellen. “It was a blind date and we watched Game Six of the 1993 World Series,” Lindzon explained. “I had to wait until Joe Carter hit the home run to win the series. She just sat down in the corner waiting for the game to be over. I had been waiting my whole life for the Blue Jays to win the World Series and she had no idea. It wasn’t a good first date and six months later she called me. We got married a year later.” The couple has two children with Rachel being a senior at Coronado High School while Max is a junior at High Tech High.

Lindzon explained his family’s move to Coronado in 2009. “Housing in the Phoenix area was a mess and I was in the software business, which I could start from anywhere. Ellen’s parents have a place in the Shores and she knew Coronado. I wondered what it would be like living here during the off season. We rented a house, later bought one, and haven’t turned back. It was a simple progression of realizing that we loved Coronado.”

From a business perspective Lindzon had good fortune early in his career, cold calling Mark Scatterday when he was a stockbroker living in Phoenix in 1992. Scatterday became the inventor of The Gripp, more commonly known as the stress relief ball. “I fell in love with the products,” Lindzon recalled. “I wrote a check for $25,000, which was money I didn’t have. Eventually we put the stress ball on television and it became a rags to riches product and a member of the QVC (shopping channel) Hall of Fame. We sold hundreds of thousands of them. I can’t explain it, it was like the pet rock, a kind of magical thing. We built Pro-Innovative Concepts around putting corporate logos on the product and we had $40 million in sales over the next three to four years. I was an investor and I also took over daily operations. We ended up with 100 people and I learned a lot. It was my first real break, my first real win. I then proceeded to make 10 bad investments on some really bad ideas.”

The ups and downs of his personal investments lead naturally to the investment philosophy which Lindzon espouses. “I’m pretty risk averse and I am more of a classic trend follower. I’m not the first guy to buy a stock like Nike, Under Armour or Starbucks. I follow along, as long as it’s working. With startups I take a bar bell approach to risk. Investment in startup investment companies is highly risky.”

October 16, 2009, exactly seven years to the day prior to our interview, Lindzon launched his online media career with Wallstrip, which he explained. “It’s one of the great things I have ever done. It was a dumb idea, but I had some spare time while I was running a hedge fund and life was pretty smooth. I invested in GolfNow.com which is now owned by Comcast. It’s for tee time bookings like OpenTable is for restaurants. I wanted to expand into social media and create a website for people who wanted to hang out and talk about golf. I bought the name Wallstrip, hired video kids in New York and we produced three-minute videos in the style of Larry David (of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame) meets Wall Street. It was on YouTube every morning for three years and six months later CBS acquired it. It was one of those moments in life that came out of pure art and passion. It became popular really fast. YouTube was just starting then.”

One of the great things about Lindzon is he isn’t afraid to make fun of himself, as he described the process behind writing his first book “The Wallstrip Edge: Using Trends to Make Money-Find Them, Ride Them and Get Off.” Lindzon said looking back, “Now I’m a celeb I guess in my little corner of the world. Book deals are coming at me, with real money. I signed a book deal and spent the money before I had written a word. I locked myself in a hotel room to write it. I was getting paid so much money from the publisher that I gave them the naming rights. It may be my best work on investments.”

In due time Wallstrip begat StockTwits, which is Twitter-delivered investment advice written by Lindzon. “It’s really interesting, I was working for CBS and I was like the Clarence Beeks (“Trading Places” movie reference) of CBS. They were paying some guy and they don’t know who he is. I was getting paid very well to do nothing. I was in my robe and getting my check at the first of the month. When Twitter started, I thought this could change the world. I had some shares of Twitter and I thought it should be more about the stock market. I moved here and we have about 15 people and a really nice business. StockTwits is the largest social network in the world for investing. It’s a really nice little business. More importantly it’s my distribution platform for writing and my thoughts. It has become what I am known for. I have a very high profile on the Internet, but nobody in Coronado knows me.”

Lindzon has done extremely well financially as an Angel Investor, someone who is willing to take a leap and fund a start-up company if the numbers are right. He described some of his better financial prognostications. “The biggest success on a small investment was Uber. It was just starting and I remember moving to Coronado and they didn’t have Uber. It used to take 40 minutes to get a ride out of Coronado and now it takes three minutes. It has become a global brand in just five years. I’m not operating the company, I’m just an investor. Another brand is Ticketfly.com, which was just purchased by Pandora for $450 million. I was the first investor in 2008 during the financial crisis. That was an idea from a couple of guys in the ticketing business in New York, who improved the software for clubs and venues to sell tickets. I’m really proud of GolfNow.com. LifeLock.com was a great investment in 2007 and I sold that a couple of years ago. I was their first investor when I was living in Phoenix. That was one of the Top 5 investments I have ever made. They are now a billion dollar company. But my main mission still is to improve the financial education in this country, which is way too low.”

Lindzon has a new company and currently offices out of the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego. He is an investor in a friend’s company entitled DeskHub, where there are 200 desks available for rent, and three-quarters of those available spots are currently rented. “If people want to start a business, it has never been easier,” Lindzon said. “The lease for office space is often the biggest nightmare. It used to be getting the phone, now it’s the lease. For $450 a month you get all of the services including a meeting room, phone and fax, and printer for a flat fee.”

In 2008 Lindzon formed a holding company called Social Leverage, a separate corporate entity he uses to make investments. “I had this thesis that we were in a new era of social leverage, where it’s not money that matters, but instead who you know on the internet. I made Social Leverage my name for everything other than StockTwits. It’s become a phenomenon. What matters is how you can help people and companies accelerate through your network. How fast can you take a product and perform well, globally. Money isn’t the thing that drives it but the social network. Social is the new way of marketing. We still need to understand how to do ‘Old School.’ Advertising and retail are coming back now. If I wanted my kids to do one thing well it would be selling. There are two missions in investing. One is learning the language of the markets. The other is to learn the behavioral elements of euphoria and panic. Ninety-nine percent of the time we’re not in either.”

One of the themes of Lindzon’s Stocktoberfest, which was held Monday and Tuesday of this week at the Hotel Del Coronado, was which company will become the first to realize a market capitalization of $1 Trillion. I asked Lindzon to name his candidates for Win, Place and Show in the race to $1 Trillion. “I believe Apple may well be on their way to being the first. Second and third place are interesting. Exxon, which is an oil company has so many things they can do. Then there is Facebook, Amazon and Google. I thought recently it could be a cancer cure or a biotech stock. Apple figured out China and the Chinese love the IPhone. Another brand that is going to catch on is Tesla. I would say 1. Apple, 2. Amazon 3. Google. 4. Facebook and 5. Tesla. Not the car, but the battery. The brand is so big and Tesla has captured the imagination of China. Globally Tesla has built a brand.”

I attended a couple of hours of the Fourth Annual Stocktoberfest Monday morning, in time to hear Lindzon speak for 30 minutes on investing and then serve as the questioner/facilitator/moderator for two more speakers. While he wasn’t on stage, several of the 450 Stocktoberfest attendees could be found in close orbit around Lindzon. Social networking is important to Lindzon and you get the impression that he will interact with a huge percentage of the folks who paid to attend the event.

Lindzon lists playing golf with his son, traveling and movies as favorite activities. When asked about his favorite travel destinations, he replied, “I’m a big fan of New York and London, the big cities.” Future plans include dying in Coronado, which he said half in jest. He added, “Stocktoberfest is going to become an institution. We could have 1,000 people next year. It’s all contained on the Island and people hang together for the event. I like putting people together for financial education.” With Lindzon’s sterling investment track record, don’t bet against Stocktoberfest becoming the financial forum equivalent of the stress relief ball.

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