When a series of earthquakes devastated Haiti in January, Paul Gierow, president of GATR Technologies, did more than write a check: He sent two of his company's inflatable satellites -- worth about $100,000 each -- to help aid workers coordinate their efforts via high-speed Internet and phone connections. Inc.'s Darren Dahl spoke with Gierow, whose Huntsville, Alabama, company was No. 259 on the 2009 Inc. 500.
I heard about Haiti on the news, around the same time everyone else did. At first, I told myself we were too busy, we had other business to do. But two days later I told David Hoffman, one of our deployment experts, to do what he felt was best. He was on his way to Haiti the next day.
I developed the concept of an inflatable antenna with my chief scientist, Bill Clayton. The thing blows up like a big beach ball.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I took a prototype down to Biloxi, Mississippi. Within a few hours, we had a high-speed data link set up for the Red Cross shelter so it could stay in touch with FEMA and doctors. It was my "aha" moment: I saw the real need for what I had built.
Most of our customers are military and intelligence agencies that require communications access from remote areas around the world. We're looking to expand into the private sector by working with, say, insurance companies that want to set up remote access at disaster sites.
Our antenna can fit into two boxes. It is also 10 times lighter than anything else out there. I can check an antenna on an airplane or FedEx it anywhere in the world.
Sending those systems to Haiti to help humanitarian groups is part of our business that will never be a moneymaker. And we don't necessarily want it to be. But it lets us show how quickly we can respond and how much data we can push.
Reconnected GATR employee David Hoffman (top) sets up a satellite dish to assist aid workers in the wake of the Haitian earthquakes.