Scholarship app Scholly, one of Philly’s buzziest startups, landed a $100,000 investment from the city-backed StartUp PHL angel fund, CEO Christopher Gray announced Tuesday evening at Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest pitch competition.
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Since his appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank in February, CEO Christopher Gray has had a banner year. Scholly topped the App Store for three weeks, the company signed major deals with Memphis, Tenn., the state of Montana and even a White House-affiliated nonprofit and Gray was named Ernst & Young’s Philly-area Entrepreneur of the Year. Oh, and Gray graduated from Drexel this June.
The StartUp PHL investment, which is convertible debt, is just one part of Gray’s fundraising efforts, though he declined to comment further.
It’s the fifth investment of the StartUp PHL angel fund, nearly a year after it launched.
"It's cool to be part of a nascent startup hub. Philly's given us a lot of love."
After Shark Tank, Gray considered moving his team to San Francisco.
“I had my reservations [about Philly],” he said.
But he changed his mind, with encouragement from local mentors, like Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer, who purchased the app for every current and future Science Leadership Academy senior.
“It’s cool to be part of a nascent startup hub,” he said, adding that “Philly’s given us a lot of love.”
Post-graduation and post-Shark Tank, Gray is making moves to grow his company here. He moved off campus and into his own apartment in University City. His cofounders Nick Pirollo and Bryson Alef are moving to Philadelphia in the coming months. He’s ironing out the details to open a Scholly office to accommodate his current team of seven.
Right now, Scholly staff works out of Center City’s Pipeline but Gray and product manager Eli Bernstein, a Penn student, sometimes post up in First Round Capital’s University City office.
Scholly also hired Dave Becker, of startups like Beacon & Lively and Campus ESP, as Scholly’s COO and Jordan Goldenberg of branding company Finch Brands as creative director.
Gray didn’t formally pitch First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, who runs the angel fund personally. (Compared to the StartUp PHL seed fund that First Round operates on behalf of the city of Philadelphia and co-invests with.) Gray was chatting with Kopelman earlier this year, after the Shark Tank episode aired, about fundraising strategy when Kopelman asked him if he would stay in Philadelphia, Gray said. When Gray said yes, Kopelman said the StartUp PHL investment decision had been made.
While that might seem simple, it’s actually a relationship that has been in the works for a few years: Gray was one of the original members of First Round Capital’s student-run Dorm Room Fund, so Kopelman was already familiar with Gray and his company.