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“I doubt any great entrepreneur in history got up in the morning and said I think I’ve got a good plan on how to make money. I think Wilbur and Orville [Wright] wanted to fly, I think [Thomas] Edison wanted to make light without candles.”

August 21, 2013, 7:50 p.m. ET

Inventing With an Eye on the Future

Even with an exceptional idea, budding entrepreneurs can struggle to move past the brainstorming stages. They face challenges in execution like building a cohesive team, coming up with a business plan and even understanding how to present their product or service. This week mentors on “WSJ Startup of the Year,” a documentary on wsj.com, offered some words of inspiration for all entrepreneurs. Here’s what some science and technology innovators had to say. Edited excerpts:

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google Inc. GOOG +0.45% : “Ninety-five percent of the innovators I meet would actually do exactly what they say if given the resources, but most of those projects would fail because the timing is wrong. A lot of business and technology plans assume the world three or four years from now will be kind of like it is today, and that’s not the world you need to aim at. That’s going to be a completely different world. The world is completely changed in just a few years time, and it will change at an even faster pace in the future. So a key harbinger of success is to actually understand this exponential pace of change and make your project relevant for the future world and meet the train when you get there.”

Peter Diamandis, chairman and founder of XPRIZE Foundation: “What I’m interested in seeing is someone who’s passionate about what they’re doing; that they love it; that they’re excited about it. Because a business plan isn’t worth much of anything. What really is worth something is a set of entrepreneurs whose mission this is to make happen beyond anything. That at 3 o’clock in the morning when they hit another brick wall, they’re going to wake up and take a different direction. Ultimately a business plan is going to be out-of-date as soon as you begin writing it. And it is really that internal dimension of passion, of commitment that will carry through all the hurdles along the way.”

Bob Hariri, founder and CEO of Celgene Cellular Therapeutics: “It’s the mission and the man. You establish a clear mission, what you want to do and then you go and find really great people. You have to have the kind of outgoing, engaging personalities that let [you] pull the best and the brightest. You’ve got to be evangelical about your mission. And then when you get them to sign on and you can inject some of that passion in them, then you can build a remarkably successful business.”

Dean Kamen, Segway inventor and health-care innovator: “If you believe that what drives a person to be an entrepreneur is money or not wanting to risk money, I’d say that’s an early sign that this is not an entrepreneur. Every entrepreneur I’ve ever seen is driven by the passion to do something, believing that if it’s as good as they think it is, of course somebody will make money. And probably if they stay with it, they’ll make some of it, maybe most of it or maybe all of it. But I doubt any great entrepreneur in history got up in the morning and said I think I’ve got a good plan on how to make money. I think Wilbur and Orville [Wright] wanted to fly, I think [Thomas] Edison wanted to make light without candles.”

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About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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