CEO Stories: Marrying Personal Passion and Disruptive Technology

Mike Liams
CEO of Alcohol Monitoring Systems

Mike Iiams, CEO of Alcohol Monitoring Systems (popularly known as SCRAM) talks about marrying personal passion and disruptive technology to improve society.

SCRAM–the company whose products include the alcohol-monitoring device made famous by a post-rehab Lindsay Lohan–is in some ways a typical tech startup. For years it was a shoestring operation with fewer than 10 employees, run out of a basement by its hopeful founders. But for CEO Mike Iiams, who joined the company some 20 years ago, it was an opportunity to leverage his knowledge of large software systems with personal motivation. For many years, his maternal grandfather was, in Iiam’s words “a skid row drunk” who eventually became sober. “I had this picture of my grandfather in the back of my mind that kept tugging on me,” he says of his desire bring something new to the marketplace and make a difference in people’s lives.

Disruptive technology–such as SCRAM’s device that can accurately measure alcohol transdermally–isn’t enough to make an impact in the market, Iiams stresses. A willing, early customer who can be a partner that helps keep the company accountable is just as essential as capital and other resources. SCRAM found such a partner in Michigan Department of Corrections Electronic Monitoring Group, for whom it ran a beta program. The department is now one of its top five customers.

SCRAM has projects in virtually every state focused on keeping people out of prison, provided they as long can demonstrate that they’re not drinking for the time that they’re being monitored. This helps the criminal justice system make a distinction, in Iiam’s words, between “people we’re mad at and people we’re afraid of.”

About the Series: Featured stories from the intersection of the free market and entrepreneurial success. Here we speak with leading CEOs, academics, philanthropists and up and comers on their contributions and perspectives on the American economy.

About Ray Hoffman: Ray Hoffman, a veteran business journalist, is highly-regarded for his news and analysis features and insightful CEO interviews. Representing BusinessWeek on air for twenty-one years, Mr. Hoffman was the morning business news voice on the ABC Radio Networks from 1995 to 2006. Mr. Hoffman also represented The Wall Street Journal, on air, for eleven years. His daily WCBS CEO Radio feature was recognized by the New York Press Club as best radio business news report in both 2012 and 2015. In this podcast, Mr. Hoffman invites some of America’s most dynamic CEOs to share their stories as business builders and perspectives on free enterprise.