How Harper Reed ’01 applied tech to COVID-19

When the pandemic hit, software engineer Harper Reed ’01 had to cancel a flight and abandon a business initiative. Instead of his original plan of starting a company, he found himself spending the next eight months on COVID-19 response. 

Harper Reed ’01
Harper Reed ’01

“The only thing that made me less scared was information. The need for information led to building out some communities of people who also wanted info. As the communities grew, they spawned projects. The projects led to exciting work. Which led to more information. Which built out new communities,” the Cornell College alumnus wrote in his blog. “I was suddenly full time on COVID-19 response. Completely accidentally.”

He described the work as challenging and fun, and found himself doing what he normally does, namely, “organizing teams, building out communities, executing on technology, writing things down, and working with amazing people.”

Among the communities he started is the successful and now defunct Sourcing PPE community that learned how to fill holes in the U.S. supply chain. His projects included work on the WHO app, Last Mile PPE (documented in a New Yorker article), and documenting and defining exposure notification data rights. His blog outlines all the communities and projects, and lists his speaking engagements as well. 

What’s next? 

“I am now focused on a new thing. I am very excited. You should be too,” Reed writes. “It is going to be galactic.”

Reed is a Cornell College Trustee who majored in computer science and philosophy at the college. The former PayPal head of commerce and entrepreneur-in-residence is self-described as “a technologist that predicts the future for a living.”