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Tom Ruginis grew up in Lisle, Ill. He attended school (preschool through college) in Lisle but currently lives near San Francisco, California.
Ruginis graduated from Benedictine University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology. After Benedictine, he followed an indirect path to become an entrepreneur. He worked as a research associate in a colon cancer lab and, in his first year, generated a first-author paper identifying a potential protein marker for colon cancer. He started a Ph.D. program in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois-Chicago with a focus on blood vessel growth in tumors, but he left after two years. Ruginis then became a lead salesperson for Midwest Scientific, a lab supplier in the Midwest.
He quit that job when he was diagnosed with a painful chronic disease, Psoriatic Arthritis, which has few-to-no treatments to manage pain and inflammation in the joints. The phrase “be your own boss” started to resonate with him.
Having held a variety of jobs in the sciences, Ruginis recognized a major problem for scientists—there is a gross lack of transparency in pricing for lab supplies and equipment. Scientists waste a lot of time shopping and often overspend on supplies. Driven by his commitment to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research, he created HappiLabs in 2012. His goal: to help them focus less on supplies and more on science.
He created a “software as a service”-type product, the Virtual Lab Manager, which offers scientists remote support for a variety of tasks with an emphasis on shopping for and purchasing lab supplies. HappiLabs has since grown to 14 employees, manages $32 million in lab spending and serves labs all over the country.