Meet Everett Harper, the man called in to fix the infamous Obamacare website mess of 2013

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 19, 2024 7:03 AM EDT
Everett Harper. Photo credit: Duke University

Problems were immediately apparent when US government-run officially launched on 1 October 2013. That is the official website for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, 2010), otherwise known as Obamacare. But the high demand on the website caused the system to go down within two hours of launching. The government had spent $200 million on a system whose drop-down menus, logins and other features couldn’t work. Everett Harper, founder and CEO of digital product design and development company Truss was then called in.

President Barrack Obama’s second term hinged on the success of the Affordable Care Act . He signed ACA in 2010 to increase healthcare access to all Americans. The legislation required that the United States Department of Health and Human Services launch as an official healthcare exchange to allow residents to choose the right plan. The website had to be fixed within two months.

Alongside other contractors, Harper’s Truss worked on troubleshooting and improving the software. The website was soon able to handle 35, 000 concurrent users at a time with a total of 1.2 million customers signing up for a healthcare plan during the enrollment period. Their work ensured that more than 18 million have access to health insurance.

“It was one of the best business decisions we ever made. Mark and the team helped save, then our company was asked to build the upgrade the following year. It allowed us to scale up our team and sealed the decision that Truss would be a human-centered software development company working for public and private sector clients,” Harper said on the impact fixing the crisis had on Truss.

Harper describes working with as one of the best business decisions he’s ever made. After the team helped save the website, Truss was charged with building the upgrade the following year. The company was able to grow and secure its position in the industry. While it helped large corporations and government agencies transform their legacy IT into modern development and engineering operations, it helped growing startups scale through automation, development and process redesign.

Truss works with clients to design, build, and scale modern software that exceeds standards for speed and security. It follows a research-based approach to building a software foundation that allows organizations to grow and automate. The company has since solved complex problems for the Department of Defense and Center for Medicaid Services and has developed software for several Fortune 200 companies.

Harper is following in his parents’ tech footsteps. Both his parents had careers as programmers for IBM spanning 25 years although they never attended college. Notably, his mother was a pioneering “hidden genius” figure who rose from secretary to becoming one of the first black women programmers at the company. Harper kept with the family’s science tradition and earned a degree in biomedical and electrical engineering from Duke.

“I was raised in a family of IBM engineers back in the ’60s. Neither of my parents went to college. They were programmers. IBM was one of the first companies to hire African Americans in any kind of white-collar technical role – at any scale or number,” Harper wrote about his family’s technology background.

The path to founding Truss wasn’t straightforward. After his undergraduate,  Harper worked in community development finance for Self-Help. He earned his MBA from Stanford University and then worked for Linden Lab, the maker of the virtual world Second Life. He discovered his fascination for social psychology, organizational development, and network theory when he founded Harper Associates, a diversity consultancy. He later worked at virtual reality platform Second Life and co-founded a wine app called Bottlenotes that failed.

Truss was born at Women 2.0’s Founder Lab accelerator in 2011. The company initially released a calendar app called Leave Now. The app never took off as the Truss elite engineering team was called upon to save And the rest is history.