Scolaris.ca is awesome. It’s Canada’s first crowdfunded scholarship platform where students can create profiles for themselves, share and raise money for school. Man, I wish Scolaris was around when I was getting prepared for my college journey. At least it exists now for bright students, debt-filled grads and generous donors. We caught up with founder, Mark Mauleesan to get the lowdown on Scolaris, how his faith plays a big role, and the story behind the Scolaris mascot.
How’d you come up with the name Scolaris?
Scolaris.ca is Latin for scholar! I was building and conceptualizing the site around students; empowering them with the tools and resources needed to get through school successfully. Realizing the seriousness in the national loan debt crisis in Canada and the US, and also noticing the surge in crowdfunding sites, it only seemed natural to bring the two arenas together and that’s how scolaris was born!
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
The first thing I do everyday is read scripture from the bible! My faith is important to me because it’s a part of who I am. I believe everything happens for a reason. And I believe it was by God’s grace that Scolaris even happened. After all, I’m a medical graduate with really no tech experience!
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
The company started with me. And then I got my best friend involved – she also happens to be my wife. We then decided to bring a good friend into the team because he was a God-fearing good Christian guy and he had a degree in finance, which kind of makes sense to have considering the scope of the business we’re in.
So for the past 3 months, it’s been just us three. We also hired a freelance developer who has been awesome. He brought my creation to life! But since our launch 3 weeks ago (Canada Day 2012), we have had a explosion of students from various campuses wanting to partake in our venture. In lieu of this, we have created campus ambassadors for scolaris.ca and we have about 10 of them from across Ontario, and it’s continuing to grow!
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describes the struggle you went through?
The early days were a little over 3 months ago. I am by no means a computer programmer. I have some artistic skills and I’m pretty decent on Photoshop so with my creativity and business logic in mind, I overcame the struggle of actually building a website by painstakingly designing screenshots of each page (they’ve gone through revisions since then) and then I used them as templates when I hired my freelancer developer. Over the course of the development stage, I picked up some simple coding and programming and was quickly able to manage the site on my own…for the most part!
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
Our office environment is pretty laid back. It has a contemporary look with clean lines but with a lot of character. I have my ’87 collection of Muppet babies from McDonald’s on a shelf and yes, I do play house music from time to time…when we’re not brainstorming and working on marketing/developmental logistics.
How do you picture Scolaris.ca in 5 years?
Scolaris.ca is a baby! And I’m the very stern yet loving kind of parent. I’ll be grooming, teaching, and instructing scolaris.ca from an early age in the hopes that it does well and will be able to spread its wings and soar over the highest mountains. All metaphors aside, I see Scolaris.ca becoming a web platform that has multiple features apart from our crowdfunding flagship service. If we get acquired by someone, great!
If we have the opportunity to merge with another similar business venture, super. In the end, I would like to see Scolaris.ca be sustainable across many platforms in education and across many countries.
Who or what inspires you?
My inspiration comes from my wife and business partner. She pushes me to be better even though she claims she’s content with the way I am now. My inspiration also comes from my parents who sacrificed their lives for me when they left their home in Sri Lanka for a better life in Canada. Canada opened doorways and opportunities for my sister and me.
Today I am not just a startup CEO but I have a medical degree. And just recently, my sister received her acceptance letter to Law School at the University of Ottawa. I owe it to my parents. Of course, throughout all this, if it weren’t for God’s hand in my life, I wouldn’t be a here today.
How’d you fund this venture?
Scolaris.ca has been funded by myself mainly and as well as my partners. We have been bootstrapping the whole thing as much as possible but now I’ve realized the potential growth surge and we are working to find some investment dollars to help us propel our site further through team and site development, marketing, and other things.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (not tech related)?
I have always had a desire to create a mobile medical clinic and offer services for under-serviced areas in developing countries. When I was younger I started a Christian charity but after getting into medical school, I never got the chance to see that through. I would definitely spend the money on this…although I don’t think I would need all 500K.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Youtube – mobile app. I just love watching videos. And watching funny videos that people post up are awesome! It makes the world a smaller place, which is good because it makes us really feel like a community and connected!
iOS or Android?
iOS ALL THE WAY. I’m spoiled with apple products–with two iPhones, two iPads, an iMac, apple TV, and Macbook–my wife and I love everything about apple and iOS.
What’s the greatest thing about Scolaris.ca?
The greatest thing about scolaris.ca is its future. There are so many things we can do with scolaris.ca that will definitely empower students. From our crowdfunding platform for students and its academic timeline, to our graduates platform (coming soon) for those done with school, to our philanthropist directory and everything in between, scolaris.ca will definitely be a household name soon.
Where can our readers reach out to you?
Readers can send us an email to
- [email protected]
- follow us on twitter @Scolaris_Canada
- and facebook.com/scolariscanada.
What do you wish I had asked you?
“Why are you so good looking?” Actually, how about “what’s the story behind your mascot?” Well I’m glad you asked! Our mascot’s name is EHstein…because he’s canadian, eh? He has the face of a familiar man…with the body of a smurf!
Thanks, Mark! Once your graduate platform launches, I’ll be sure to create a profile begging for people to pay my student loans off! Who knows– there might be a random, charitable person out there that will buy my begging and get me off the debt hook. Wouldn’t that be nice?