MBA alumnus steers medical technology startup through pandemic’s unprecedented challenges

Moore School alumnus Bill Harley (’93 MBA) is an experienced entrepreneur who has been part of six startups in the past 23 years. Maneuvering a company through a worldwide pandemic is one obstacle he hadn’t experienced until 2020.

Harley is the CEO for Zeriscope. With clients across the U.S., in Africa and soon in Haiti, Zeriscope is a medical technology firm that develops specialized mobile telemedicine solutions for focused medical use cases.

“As the CEO of a startup, I am deeply involved in most every aspect of the company from engineering and business development to general administration,” Harley said.

Harley and his team at Zeriscope adjusted to the pandemic by eliminating travel and moving most meetings online.

Keeping employees and patients safe was Zeriscope’s top priority as they grappled with how to deliver services from a predominantly virtual staff.

“Zeriscope has tailored systems for providers to use in hospitals to limit exposure to patients with COVID-19,” Harley said. “We are also supporting health care clients who provide care for sickle cell disease in developing countries but who are not able to travel to those countries due to COVID-19.”

In the six months since the pandemic began, Zeriscope’s biggest challenge was helping to convert a National Institute of Mental Health-funded in-person clinical trial of its new system to treat PTSD to a completely virtual trial, Harley said.

“Fortunately, our clinical partners were eager to keep the trial going, as was Zeriscope, and we were able to obtain approval from the National Institutes of Health and the Institutional Review Board to make the modifications without impacting the efficacy of the trial,” he said.

Harley said he is proud of the technology Zeriscope is developing in the PTSD trial with an experienced group of therapists to potentially change and save lives. 

“The work we are doing with providers in the treatment of PTSD is expected to revolutionize the current protocols and significantly increase the effectiveness of treatment,” he said. “PTSD is a debilitating mental health condition that increases suicide risk and affects up to 20 percent of military veterans and 8 percent of the general public. Data on U.S. Army soldiers reveals that service members with, as compared to without, PTSD are six times more likely to commit suicide.”

As CEO of Zeriscope, Harley concentrates on all aspects of the business; he said he has a great team to help him deliver their services. Before completing his MBA, Harley focused more on the technical nature of his work as a mechanical engineer until he was able to combine those skills with his MBA.

“My MBA experience has been invaluable in my business career,” Harley said. “I can’t imagine running a business without understanding accounting or the fundamentals of marketing.”

Harley’s companies he helped create before Zeriscope ranged from an internet consultancy group, Xcelerate, a marketing and distribution company of commercial fuel additives, Cenergetics, to a national provider of in-home medical mobility and respiratory equipment, MRB Acquisition Corp.  

Because of his entrepreneurial success, Harley previously served on the Moore School’s Faber Entrepreneurship Center advisory board for four years. He currently serves on the UofSC McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise, which encourages students to participate in entrepreneurism.

Marjorie Riddle Duffie