Ted Waitt is the founder and chairman of the Waitt Foundation. He was the co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Gateway, Inc., where he helped pioneer the direct marketing of personal computers. Labeled a maverick by national business publications, he has since gone on to form multiple enterprises: Avalon Capital Group, Inc.; The Waitt Foundation; The Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, and The Waitt Institute. Through the Waitt Foundation, Mr. Waitt has been named one of America’s 50 most generous philanthropists according to Business Week.
Mr. Waitt currently serves on the executive committee of the board of trustees of the National Geographic Society (NGS). As the Society’s largest living donor, he has worked on many issues; among them, working to establish an efficient and cutting edge vehicle to support global exploration and discovery, the NGS/Waitt Grants Program. He also serves as a trustee of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he established the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center with a $20 million dollar grant. Over the past 8 years, he has dedicated the bulk of his time and resources to the cause of ocean conservation. Since that time, The Waitt Foundation has invested over $60 million in various ocean conservation initiatives, and is engaged in projects to create over 15 million square kilometers of marine protected areas around the world. The Waitt Institute is focused on marine spatial planning in coastal communities, and has engaged with the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Curaçao and Montserrat to create sustainable ocean policies. Among numerous other ocean conservation endeavors, he is a founding member of Oceans 5, serves on the board of advisors for the NGS Pristine Seas initiative, and has sponsored dozens of marine science expeditions.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Mr. Waitt is the son of a fourth generation cattleman. He attended the Universities of Colorado and Iowa. After a nine-month stint working in the PC industry in Des Moines, Iowa, he and Mike Hammond co-founded Gateway in 1985 on the Waitt family farm. With a $10,000 loan secured by Mr. Waitt’s grandmother, they grew Gateway from “two guys in a barn” to become a Fortune 500 company.
Over the years, Mr. Waitt has earned a number of honors, among them: the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award from the U.S. Small Business Association; two Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards; Marketing Computers Marketer of the Year; and he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was appointed by Congress to serve on the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce, and received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of South Dakota.