For all who dare to go off the beaten track, this is the inspirational, power-packed playbook for transforming your life and your world—from a young, Black social entrepreneur whose dorm-room tech startup has helped millions pay for college and access unprecedented opportunity.
Gray, the son of a single working mother who had him at age fourteen, grew up in deep poverty in Birmingham, Alabama. An academic star, he had every qualification for attending a top college—except for the financial means. Desperate, Gray headed off the beaten path, searching online to apply for every scholarship he could find. His hustle resulted in awards of 1.3 million dollars and became his call to action to help other students win their own “schollys.” It inspired him to start up Scholly, an app that matches college applicants with millions of dollars in outside scholarships that often go unclaimed.
When he was a senior at Drexel University, he appeared on Shark Tank as CEO of Scholly. In the most heated fight in the show’s history, the sharks challenged Gray as to whether his app was a charity or a profitable business. Both, he insisted, proposing a new paradigm for social entrepreneurship and netting deals from Lori Grenier and Daymond John.
At the time Scholly’s subscriber base was 90,000 users. Today the app has 4 million subscribers who have won scholarships totaling more than $100 million. Meanwhile, Gray—without help from the mostly all-white boy’s club of Silicon Valley—has emerged as a tech startup superhero now tackling the crisis of student debt with innovative, unrivaled strategies.
Gray’s premise is that when you lead with the good—confronting issues such as poverty and racism—the money will follow. His story is proof that when you develop a mindset for success, you turn disadvantages into gold. And when you create opportunities for others, you enrich the marketplace for yourself too.
Gray shows us, we can carve out new paths to better days and leave trails for others.