SEG is honoring Andy Hildebrand, Bob Limbaugh, John Mouton, and Roice Nelson with the Enterprise Award for founding Landmark Graphics, which revolutionized the manner in which seismic data are interpreted. Roice Nelson was a visionary who built the first interpretation ‘workstation’ out of cardboard and managed to convince others of its potential. John Mouton and Andy Hildebrand provided the scientific and programming expertise that made this vision a reality. Bob Limbaugh sold the dream to clients and venture capitalists alike, providing the financial fuel that got Landmark through the crucial first years.
Biography Citation for the Cecil Green Enterprise Award
Contributed by Robert P. Peebler
Today, it seems as if the world is filled with high-tech entrepreneurs motivated by the lure of IPOs and financial riches. I’d like to share the story of an entrepreneur driven by creativity, by technology, and by people. John Mouton is a futurist who can spot developing trends very early, an entrepreneur who seizes opportunities to build entire enterprises based on his hunches, and a humanist who cares deeply about the people with whom he works. J ohn, a native of Louisiana, considers himself a genuine Cajun. He holds a doctorate in physics and has accumulated a rather eclectic array of experience including design of guided missiles, biomedical instruments, and geophysical workstations. His research has included mathematical physics, earthquake seismology, and petroleum exploration. In 1982, when 3-D seismic interpretation was done on massive mainframes, he, Roice Nelson, Andy Hildebrand, and Bob Limbaugh founded Landmark Graphics and revolutionized the oil and gas industry with an affordable “console-sized” workstation.
John’s initial role was to design the computing hardware for the new Landmark system. At the time, commercially available workstations were in their infancy. This forced John and his team to design and deliver a “workstation” that weighed more than 1000 pounds and was about the size of a household refrigerator on its side. They had to design and assemble nearly every component, from the printed circuit boards to the custom cabinets. The power cables were the size of fire hoses, and John has said that an elephant could have stood on it without causing serious damage. John and the other Landmark founders combined their considerable technical skills with a vision of what the future could be, and then they made it real. They were true pioneers who launched a revolution in E&P with technology and a brilliant business approach that nurtured the company through its early years. A mediator and facilitator, John is considered by many to have been the “glue” that held Landmark together through some of its early trials. To this day, the imprint of John and the other Landmark founders persists throughout the company. John created an environment of respect for individual opinion balanced with the freedom to openly challenge each other. Many find his amiable personality motivating, while his very high integrity has led him to serve widely as a trusted advisor.
In 1987, John began serving as senior vice president for Strategic Marketing for Landmark, a role that combined strategic planning and conventional marketing functions. He took on many business imperatives such as the forging of alliances, acquisitions, rifle-shot competitive initiatives, corporate positioning, and internal technology utilization. For a while, his department was called “Strategic Weapons” until they grew weary of having to explain what this meant to people outside the company.
When he retired from Landmark in 1994, he was chief technology advisor. Since his retirement, he has continued as a technology and strategy advisor to the company. He has served on the boards of directors of HyperMedia Corporation and the Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation. He is also a cofounder and investor in yet another petroleum software startup.
The ability of John Mouton and the other founders to innovate and to think unconventionally were keys to Landmark’s success. They proved that vision can become reality even when so many people told them they couldn’t do it. John had the ability to discern which technological threads had to be considered and which could be safely ignored. But it was his personal passion, beliefs, integrity, and insights that were—and are—an inspiration to us all.