As Garry Cooper ’14 PhD prepared to throw out used equipment at a Feinberg School of Medicine lab in 2015, an idea hit him: Lightly used, expensive research equipment could be reused rather than trashed.
“I kept seeing reports about the funding problems in scientific research — how really smart and innovative junior faculty members are leaving academia and going into industry because of the job and funding prospects,” says Cooper, who studied neuroscience. “If people who don’t know each other are willing to let someone else ride in their car, just to lower the price of going from point A to point B, then professionals who probably know each other would definitely share resources to help reduce the cost of being innovative.”
That idea launched Cooper’s startup, Rheaply — a combination of the words research and cheaply. It is part asset management system, part online marketplace and part collaboration platform. Chicago-based Rheaply “empowers professionals to save money and save the environment,” two ideas, Cooper notes, that aren’t mutually exclusive. Prior to co-founding Rheaply, Cooper worked at Ernst & Young in Chicago, an experience that helped him become CEO of a company that he hopes will be the next Amazon or eBay of the applied sciences market. Northwestern uses Rheaply’s services, and the company recently signed a major tech firm as a client.
Rheaply, which joined the startup accelerator Techstars and was named one of Built in Chicago’s “50 Startups to Watch” in 2018, also promotes STEM education for all, allowing science- and technology-focused nonprofits to use its platform for free.