Scholly: Helping students search for scholarships via mobile app

Christopher Gray's own difficulty in researching college scholarships led him to create Scholly, a smartphone app that aggregates scholarship data. (Michael Hinkelman/Staff)

 CHRISTOPHER GRAY, 22, of Center City, is a Drexel University junior and Dorm Room Fund member who's built a mobile app called Scholly to help students easily search for college scholarships. Gray, a native of Birmingham, Ala., amassed $1.3 million in scholarship offers for his own education.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Scholly?

A: I googled scholarships when I was a junior in high school and it took me months to search them. I thought "There must be an easier way for students to find this stuff."

Q: When did Scholly start up?

A: The idea came in 2012, and the app launched in May. I have two partners [Bryson Alef and Nick Pirollo]. I culled databases of scholarships; they built apps for [iOS] and Android.

Q: How did you finance it?

A: We bootstrapped it, and it was basically a lot of sweat equity.

Q: What's the opportunity?

A: It's giving people the ability to find money and grants for college by removing barriers in the search process. When you launch the app, you have eight [filters] - state you live in, GPA, race, gender, major, grade, need or merit, and miscellaneous - and you hit search, by name, deadline and amount.

Q: Why a mobile app?

A: Many low-income students, who need access to scholarships the most, have smartphones, but no laptops or Wi-Fi at home. Also, the app doesn't require an Internet connection to work.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: 99 cents. We wanted to make it affordable and sustainable.

Q: Who's the competition?

A: There's websites where you sign up to get a list of scholarships, but you have to sort through them, and they don't match you with ones that are best for you.

Q: How many Scholly users?

A: We've had over 40,000 downloads, and we get at least 72 to 100 downloads daily. What we know is people use the app and find a scholarship and then come back and look for other scholarships.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: We've grossed about $40,000 in revenue since May.

Q: What's next?

A: We want to get the app out to as many students as possible through partnerships. Schools and universities could bulk-purchase the app for 50 cents for their students who would be given a code to use it for free.

Q: What's next for Scholly?

A: We've collected tons of winning scholarship essays, and we're creating an e-book within the next two months which will have a collection of winning essays. The essay is usually the most important part of the scholarship application. We're working on pricing the e-book, which would be available online and Kindle, and that will be extra revenue for us. We also want to create our own scholarships so we'll have a list of them within Scholly where you can apply. We don't want to make money from this business and not pay it forward.


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