Andrew Zaleski

Scholly founder Christopher Gray, at center, with Steve Case and Benjamin Franklin to his left.

Eight startups entered, but at the end of yesterday’s pitch competition at the National Constitution Center, Scholly, a mobile app for finding college scholarships, emerged the winner of $100,000 from AOL founder Steve Case.

Case was in Philadelphia for his Rise of the Rest tour, a nationwide bus trip of startup cities usually overlooked by San Francisco in the west and New York City in the east. At each of his five stops, Case is sponsoring pitch competitions for local startups, and awarding the winner of each $100,000 in convertible-note debt. 

“This has been a terrific visit,” Case said. “Do what you can to make sure Philly rises faster.”

Scholly, founded by recent Drexel University graduate Christopher Gray, was partly inspired by Gray’s own path: out-of-state resident to Drexel student thanks to $1.3 million in scholarships. Gray’s startup was the heavy favorite going in to the pitch competition, especially considering his appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” last February. But the money, while nice, isn’t what Gray talked up. During his short remarks on stage after being presented with a check by Case, Mayor Michael Nutter — and a Benjamin Franklin reenactor — Gray, a black founder, mentioned that his startup story is uniquely Philadelphian.

“The black guy in IT is a hurdle itself,” he said. “What Philly has shown me is you don’t have to fit that profile. … You can be of any background. Philly does that better than anyone.”