Sophomore named ‘Next Teen Tycoon’

March 28, 2012 — by Cristina Curcelli and Sarah Finley

The front page

To sophomore Jason Li, creating a successful company is all in a day’s work. He may only be 15, but being the CEO of, a company founded in last July, which allows users to sell old electronics in exchange for money, makes him seem years beyond his age.

Not only this, but on March 12, Li was also announced as the winner of “The Next Teen Tycoon,” a nation-wide video contest put on by VerticalResponse to find the most promising young CEOs.

The contest required CEOs ages 13 to 18 to submit a two-minute long video about what their company is and why they should win the contest. Li said he first heard about the competition through his father, who saw it on Twitter.

“I thought it was cool, but I forgot about it. The night before it was due, I was bored, so I decided to work on this video,” Li said. “I was sure it would help expand my company even if I didn’t win.”

Li said that he wrote the script for the performance and chose the song the night before meeting two of his friends in the MAP building to film.

“[Sophomore] Eugene Chiou shot the video, [sophomore] Mostafa Rohaninejad was in the video with me and I directed and edited afterwards,” Li said.

The first part of the contest lasted from Feb. 8 to 25, when people voted for their favorite video entrant. Li attributes his victory to his friends, who voted early and often.

“This contest let you vote every 24 hours, so many of my friends voted multiple times,” Li said. “I can't even begin to say how supportive they are and how thankful I am to have them in my life.”

On March 5, the top 10 videos were revealed.

“After I found out ... that I made the top 10, it was all up to how well my video portrayed my business,” Li said.

These videos were then sent to a group of judges who chose the winners.

“Throughout the contest, though, I think only one or two [other videos] were true competition. They had really nice videos and I wasn't sure if mine was better,” Li said. “I had only shot the video in one lunch period and edited it in about 30 minutes.”

A week later, Li was announced to be the first place winner of the competition, an honor that awarded him many prizes, including $4,000 in cash, a free trip to New York, two books about entrepreneurship, a Skype session with a business counselor named Steve Mariotti and an invitation to TEDxTeen, a teen business conference sponsored by the nonprofit organization TED—a technology, entertainment, design organization.

“TEDxTeen is basically a place where teenagers or kids speak and meet new people,” Li said. “It's a place where ideas and accomplishments are shared with others.”

Li feels that winning the contest will also benefit his company’s development.

“I'll meet many new people in New York, get to spread the word there and build more connections,” Li said.

Plans for the money Li’s company won are already underway.

“After I receive the money, I'll give some amounts to the people who helped me make the video,” Li said. “The rest of the money will be used to pay off everything I've spent and expand the website even more.”

Li is confident of his company’s potential and has ambitious goals for its future.

“I want to grow to be a multi-million dollar company in a few years,” Li said. “It's a big dream, but I know I can get there.”

Add new comment

Prove that you're human: