Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s ‘Evolved Man of the Week’ profiles. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved man, famous and non-famous men alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to the Drexel Unversity alumni, Shark Tank Contestant, and Co-Founder of Scholly app, Christopher Gray.
The eldest of three siblings raised by a single mother in Alabama, Gray was no stranger to struggle. However, he recalls, he always found his role models through reading—“I was,” he admits, “extremely nerdy.” “Milton’s Paradise Lost,” he recalls, “didn’t so much focus me on religion as forcing me to think outside the box, to ask questions.” His wildly eclectic reading list ranged from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and Snowball, the biography of Warren Buffett, to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, the quirky primer on achievement. “That one really helped me identify my potential.”
As he neared high-school graduation, Gray realized he faced daunting odds. His mother had just lost her job at a call center in the 2008 recession. No one in his family had ever gone to college.
Scholly received the nation’s attention and adoration when it was featured on Shark Tank, landing a deal with Daymond John and Lori Greiner while sparking the biggest fight in Shark Tank history. Shortly after that, Scholly grew to be the #1 overall app in both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for over three weeks. The company was named in Inc. Magazine’s Top College Start-Ups won Under Armour’s Cupid’s Cup competition and won Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Competition. Chris Gray was named Ernst and Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015” for Philadelphia and is one of Forbes’ “30 under 30 for 2016”. Scholly has also been featured in just about every major media outlet, including Good Morning America, Forbes, BET, USA Today, Fortune Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, CNN, Fox News and many more, as well as being featured in Cadillac’s new ad campaign Dare Greatly. Moreover, being invited to speak at conferences across the nation.
Today, Gray, who is 25, works out of offices in Philadelphia. Even given the demands of heading a start-up, he makes time for yoga and running. Moreover, he says, “I still read comics. Batman, Iron Man. I like heroes who are strong leaders and intellectuals as well.”
Scholly’s success, Gray says, is based on its patent-pending algorithm and “a lot of elbow grease.” Scholly employs eight parameters to match student and scholarship: information including gender, state, and race, but also more customized data because so many grants are specialized. “For returning students, vegetarians, left-handed students,” he quips.
Even the algorithm, he says, cannot distinguish scams: Staffers weed out scholarships that could be yours if only you supply a Social Security number. Graduate students—the “Scholly Squad”—do the sifting. “They’re the quality assurance people.”
Today we honor Christopher Gray as our Evolved Man of the Week.