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Founder, Ted Waitt headshot
Ted Waitt
Founder & Chairman 

Ted Waitt is the founder and chairman of the Waitt Foundation. At 22, he co-founded Gateway 2000, Inc., where he helped pioneer the direct marketing of personal computers.  Labeled a maverick by national business publications, he became a Fortune 500 CEO and member of the Forbes 400 by the time he was 30. Since his retirement from Gateway, Inc. in 2004, he has gone on to form multiple enterprises: Avalon Capital Group, Inc., The Waitt Foundation, The Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, and The Waitt Institute.


Mr. Waitt believes that the depletion of ocean resources is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. Over the past 9 years, he has dedicated the bulk of his time and resources to the cause of ocean conservation. Since that time, the Waitt Foundation (WF), a grant making organization, has invested over $70 million in various ocean conservation initiatives. Primarily focused on the creation of national parks of the sea, or Marine Protected Areas, WF is currently engaged in projects to create over 15 million square kilometers of marine protected areas in over two dozen countries around the world. 


The Waitt Institute is committed to helping small coastal communities develop and implement comprehensive, science-based, community-driven solutions for sustainable ocean management. The Institute is currently engaged with the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Curaçao, Montserrat, and Tonga. Among numerous other ocean conservation endeavors, Mr. Waitt was a founding board member of Oceans 5, a highly successful collaboration of ocean funders working together to protect the oceans.


Additionally, Mr. Waitt is passionate about novel scientific exploration and discovery. For more than a decade, Mr. Waitt volunteered as a Trustee of both the National Geographic Society (NGS) and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (the Salk), serving in various executive capacities on both boards. In 2007, he established the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center with a $20-million dollar grant. Since inception, the Salk’s Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center has gained numerous awards and accolades and remains a model interdisciplinary and collaborative core facility at the cutting edge of imaging technology. 


As NGS’s largest living donor, he worked with the Society to establish several historic programs; among them the NGS/Waitt Grants Program, the GENOGRAPHIC Project, and The Gospel of Judas.  Personally, Mr. Waitt has travelled to more than 100 countries in a never-ending search to understand more about our planet, its people, and our history. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the NGS Pristine Seas Initiative, and has sponsored dozens of marine science expeditions, across all 5 oceans and 7 continents.


Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Mr. Waitt is the son of a 4th-generation cattleman. He attended the Universities of Colorado and Iowa, and has received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Iowa and the University of South Dakota.


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 has been named one of the top 50 philanthropists by Business Week magazine.


Mr. Waitt has 4 grown children and currently resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Michele.

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