Distinguished Speaker Series
Chairman of SemaCo
Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur
February 12, 2008
About Norman Gaut
The professional life of Norman Gaut focuses on the development of mostly technical innovations into viable businesses. Since graduating from MIT in 1967 with a Ph.D. in geophysics, he has been building businesses. The first business started immediately after a one-year post-doctoral appointment at MIT in the subject area of environmental consulting, services, and equipment. The company emphasizes innovation and advanced computer modeling, combined with state-of-the-art monitoring of environmental parameters. The AIRMAP (Air Monitoring, Analysis and Prediction) program eventually covered 1,500 monitoring sites throughout the northeastern United States and included the majority of power generating facilities east of the Mississippi. The company also provided environmental assessments, research into coal gasification, optimum ship routing for large ocean-going vessels traveling between continents, and developed highly advanced infrared stack gas analyzers.
The second major business developed by Gaut was the PictureTel Corporation, based on technology developed at MIT in the subject area of video compression. This company created the video-conferencing industry. The technical innovations that were developed and standardized by company engineers made it possible for high quality images and audio to be sent over very low bandwidth networks. The company dominated the industry for 10 years, reaching a peak of $500 million in sales.
Gaut co-founded seven other businesses, is a trustee at MIT, and an overseer at Boston University. Presently, he is the chairman of two startups, one developing a radically new cancer drug, and the other developing a highly efficient process to treat wastewater sludge with no environmental impact.