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Utah businessman honored for his work as an inventor

He credits others for helping him achieve success in ventures

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Pratap Khanwilkar was honored Wednesday for his work as an inventor, and he was quick to credit others for helping him reap success in the business world.

Khanwilkar, who received the 2008 Pathfinder Award at the Sorenson Inventor Showcase, said that good colleagues are important for any business endeavor.

Khanwilkar led MedQuest Products Inc. as co-founder and chief executive officer from its inception in 1993 to its acquisition by WorldHeart Corp. in 2005. He holds six U.S. patents, including an implantable left ventricular assist device as a therapy for adults with late-stage congestive heart failure. He currently is vice president of rotary systems and business development for WorldHeart.

"I kind of focused on my last 20 years (when) I've worked in artificial hearts and blood pumps, and I've worked with a great team," Khanwilkar told the crowd. "People make it happen. Even though it's high technology, it's really the team here — some of whom are here, some of whom I've worked with in the past — who make it happen."

He said people in a successful venture must work together toward a common vision: "Everything else is dust in the wind."

He said he came to Utah 25 years ago with "about $2,000 and about two suitcases of clothes." He finished his education and eventually cofounded five medical-device companies. MedQuest is the only one that survived.

"So, we will fail at this," he said of inventing.

Among his suggestions for inventors:

• Have a dream and be willing to work, day after day and through boredom, to see it become reality.

• Quoting from others, he said, "take the road less traveled," and "if you come across a fork in the road, take it."

• Put emotion into work; be "totally one with the problem" you're trying to solve.

• Be persistent, stubborn and sometimes ignorant. "Sometimes it's good to know you can't do it, because you don't know any better."

• Confront reality as soon as possible, but don't make the same mistakes twice.

• Encourage performance from employees but also hold them accountable for their performance.

• Start small and make mistakes early, before they would be expensive.

• Pursue simplicity, but do not shy away from managing complexity.

• Be willing to make difficult decisions in order to have a chance at success in business. MedQuest ditched seven years of work when it switched to a clinically useful product. "That took some soul-searching before we could go down that path," he said. Ditto for when the company ran out of cash and couldn't pay its employees for more than four months.

• Above all, Khanwilkar said, "enjoy the journey" to produce something the world can use.

"When you embark on this journey. .. you have no idea what destination you'll actually end up in," he said. "Your company might fail. It might succeed moderately. It might fail moderately. It might succeed beyond your wildest imagination. But you can't predict what's going to happen."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com