The saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is not true for some types of innovation. Some weeks back, I met with a man whose road to success started with good intentions. In 2005, Paul Gierow was an engineer with a small business innovation research (SBIR) contract building a portable satellite antenna in Huntsville Alabama. The antenna he designed when inflated looked like a giant beach ball, it could be packed into a small carrying case and ran off a small generator.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, Paul decided to pack up his prototype and drive down to Biloxi Mississippi to see if he could help out and maybe provide communication for the cut off residents of the devastated town. He set up his prototype satellite antenna in a Red Cross shelter and soon became a source of internet communications for the local residents, many who had lost their homes and had anxious families across the country not knowing if they were alive or dead. A Los Angeles news radio station, KNX heard about Paul’s internet communications with this over sized beach ball looking antenna. They sought him out and interviewed him. From there word spread to the Department of Defense. The Air Force gave him a contract to build some for their purposes, soon other orders began flowing in. See video below.
But Paul never forgot how he got started, so every major natural disaster whether in the US or overseas like the earthquake in Haiti or the typhoon in the Philippines, Paul sends his antennae with technical support for free.
Overseas governments and NGOs ordered them, the US Army gave him a 440 million dollar contract to supply his portable satellite antennae to all their military installations. There are now three model sizes, they run on solar arrays, and have seen use from the Arctic to the jungles of Central Africa. See GATR web site for more information.
In ten years, his company GATR has expanded, won countless technology awards, been featured in INC magazine and other publications. It all started with no marketing budget, no social media, no business plan, just money for gas, some time, and one act of human kindness.
image credit: hsvchamber.org
Lean more about the SBIR program that funded Paul’s research here:
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Peter Doyle is an award winning media marketing, news and documentary producer using rich media to accelerate innovation and commercialization. Check me out at http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterjdoyle