Waitt was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa and attended the University of Iowa. Waitt and Mike Hammond started Gateway 2000 onSeptember 5, 1985 with a $10,000 loan from Waitt's grandmother. The Company began on Waitt's father's cattle ranch moved to Sergeant Bluff, Iowa and later to North Sioux City, South Dakota, where they continued to develop their "down-home" branding, complete with computer boxes that patterned with black and white Holstein cow patterns.
He led a move of the company's headquarters from South Dakota to La Jolla, California in 1998. Mr. Waitt released the reins as CEO of Gateway in late 1999 to Jeffrey Weitzen, but returned to the post in January 2001.
In 2004, after the acquisition of eMachines, Waitt turned over day-to-day operations of Gateway and the title of CEO to Wayne Inouye, the former CEO of eMachines. In May 2005, he resigned as chairman of the company, ending a near 20-year run with the company he co-founded.
Waitt has been featured on numerous lists by Forbes magazine. He has held a spot on both the Forbes 400 Richest in
According to the September 2002 issue of Fortune Magazine, Waitt sold $1.1 billion in Gateway stock during the dot com era. However, in October 2007 when Gateway was acquired for $1.90 per share, his remaining 46.5 million shares were valued at a mere $88.36 million.
Labeled a maverick by national business and technology publications, he has gone on to form two enterprises that are his chief interests: Avalon Capital Group, Inc., a wholly-owned, billion-dollar private investment company with diverse interests in technology, health care, energy, finance, and real estate; and the Waitt Family Foundation, Waitt Institute for Discovery and Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, nonprofit organizations dedicated to the improvement of mankind’s knowledge through historical and scientific exploration.
Through the Waitt Family Foundation, Waitt has become one of
Established in 1993, the Foundation initially focused on domestic violence prevention and community development, knowing that building stronger families and societies will help foster the vision of a better world. The creation of the Waitt Institutes in 2005 --- the Waitt Institute for Discovery, and the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention --- has allowed the Foundation to broaden its program interests to the global community.
Waitt serves as the Chairman of the Founding Fathers campaign of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, just one of the efforts that he supports in the fight to prevent domestic violence. Waitt was appointed by Congress to serve on the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce and has served on numerous other corporate and philanthropic boards of directors, including the Advisory Council of the National Geographic Society and as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
On 1 May 2008, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies announced  the grant of $20 million from the Waitt Family Foundation to fund the creation of an
Mr. Waitt resides in