‘Shark Tank’ Success: Christopher Gray Showed Entrepreneurial Spirit Years Before Scholly App

Last month on Shark Tank, Christopher Gray was part of one of the most dramatic moments in the show’s history. The Drexel University student presented his app, Scholly, to the panel and asked for an investment of $40,000 for a 15 percent stake. Lori Greiner and Daymond John invested quickly, offering Gray the exact terms he’d requested. Although Gray left with a smile on his face and expressed to the Shark Tank cameras his delight with the transaction, the other sharks were not so happy. Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, and Kevin O’Leary expressed dissatisfaction with the quick conclusion of negotiations before the details of the Scholly app had even been discussed.

The show provided Scholly with a predictable bump in sales, although user reviews have been mixed. Some stated the app had bugs and not all information was current. Those bugs may be fixed, however, as Greiner stated after the airing of the Shark Tank episode that the database was up-to-date and a new website was launched.

Perhaps the most impressive individual in the story is Gray. Philly.com published an updated profile of the young entrepreneur and provided anecdotal evidence of his drive and ambition. Gray was born to a very young mother and started his first business at age 13. In high school, he approached English teacher Tara Tidwell for scholarship advice. Without his own computer, Gray had to use the public library to research and apply for scholarships he might have a chance of winning. His time was limited to the library’s limit of 30-minute or 1-hour shifts.

Gray wrote and re-wrote his scholarship application essays, using Tidwell’s guidance. At the same time he was in school and working hard to earn scholarship money, he held down a part-time job at a clothing store.

As Gray was himself helped by his English teacher, so he decided to return the favor by helping others find scholarships. Those efforts eventually became Scholly, after Gray partnered with two computer science majors.

“I was helping people with different demographics, with different races, different economic backgrounds. And it became hard to find scholarships for all of these different sorts of people. So, I said there has to be an easier way to scale this and a way to individually help all of these kids get money for college.”

Gray also told Philly.com that his ambitions are not to be a one-hit wonder. He wants to “build a company.”

Greiner was clear during Gray’s Shark Tank pitch and in her statements afterwards that she was impressed with Gray. It may have been a safe bet for both her and Daymond John.

Shark Tank airs Friday nights on ABC.