“Shark Tank” Contestant Creates Scholarship Marketplace with Startup App
By Lydia Liebman
Christopher Gray is trying to change the way students and parents find scholarship money for college. The 23-year-old entrepreneur made waves on ABC’s Shark Tank with his innovative app Scholly, which pairs students and teaches with available scholarships. Scholarships on Scholly, all private, are fielded from different websites and databases and then vetted for legitimacy and accuracy. Students are then paired with scholarships based on eight specific parameters designed by Gray and informed by his own scholarship search experience. While users can’t apply for scholarships through the app just yet, they are shown examples of winning essays. “We want to create a marketplace where students are on one side and funding is on the other side,” Gray says.
Securing scholarship money is something Gray is certainly an expert in. As a high school freshman, Gray perfected the art of essay writing with the guidance of English teacher Tara Tidwell and applied for different scholarships. By the time graduation rolled around, Gray had secured a startling $1.3 million in college scholarships. After his own success, he began to help others in need of scholarship money and realized he had a knack for it. He found that finding money to pay for college is a problem that affects everyone, regardless of demographic. While still a student at Drexel, Scholly was born.
To date, Scholly has raised 15 million dollars in scholarship and has over half a million students signed up. Presently, 39 percent of users are in high school, 41 percent are current undergrads and the remaining 20 percent are graduate students and parents. Since Gray’s appearance on Shark Tank, the trajectory for Scholly has only been toward success, marked by a recent partnership with President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper, among others. In Montana and the city of Memphis, every high school senior is purchased the app. Other partnerships include Drexel University, Science Leadership Academy, and Ernst and Young’s College Map Program.
Gray has no plans of slowing down. Along with his 9 person team, Gray wants to build a company that will make a global impact on the scholarship search marketplace. When asked which modern startups he admires, he mentions Warby Parker, who have built their brand on $95 eyeglasses and gives a pair to someone in need for every pair bought.
Scholly can be purchased on the app store for 99 cents and a web version is available for $2.99 #