Tech Pioneer Harper Reed Becomes Obama Campaign CTO

Here’s why the new hire means we can expect some digital surprises from the president’s re-election campaign.

Harper Reed


If there was any doubt the Obama re-election campaign was going to storm into new digital territory in the upcoming race, it was erased by today’s announcement that it is appointing uber-hipster and tech rebel Harper Reed as the organization’s chief technology officer.

Reed, who is 33, according to the Chicago Tribune, is the former CTO of Threadless, an online clothing company that pioneered crowdsourced design. Reed left that company two years ago, temporarily working at cloud-computing leader Rackspace, before moving on to personal projects, like designing an app to track delays in the Chicago transit system and a tool to simplify check-ins.

What’s most notable about the appointment is Reed’s position is not “head of social media” or “head of digital strategy.” It’s CTO. As in: Go find us the most radical technology out there to turbo-charge this campaign, and build whatever the hell else doesn’t already exist.

If we read the tea leaves on this correctly, it means that, just as the 2008 Obama campaign blindsided everyone by tapping into this newfangled social networking mumbo jumbo to rally support and corral donations, the 2012 campaign will similarly pioneer all kinds of new technologies and ways of interacting with the people, to rally even more support and corral even more donations.

It will be interesting to see what the traditional suits on the Obama campaign make of the mohawk wearing, earring-laden Reed. He’s a pioneer, for sure, but he’s also, a non-conformist treading into what is still fairly conservative territory. If past is prologue, however, he should do OK.


“Harper is not the guy you’d typically imagine inviting to a board meeting,” Nick Rosa of the venture capital firm Sandbox Industries, where Reed was an adviser, told the Tribune. “But we always did and he was very impressive.”

Reed, who says on his personal site that his interests lie in real-time applications, social software, and open source, won’t be the only one working on tech-fueled campaigning. Joe Rospars of Blue State Digital, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign, will be back as Chief Digital Strategist. And Michael Slaby, another 2008 veteran who most recently worked at Edelman’s Chicago office, is back as Chief Integration and Innovation Officer.

Read also: The Accidental Business: Threadless 10 Years Later

[Image: Flickr user Joi]

E.B. Boyd is’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter. Email.


About the author

E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.