When Jason Li pitched his business idea to the tough panel of potential investors on ABC's "Shark Tank," they were more excited about the businessman than the business.
Li was only 16 years old but he spoke with the confidence and eloquence of a 30-year-old, and he had already developed a profitable business.
So, Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran invested accordingly: $100,000 based on the belief that this entrepreneur would create something valuable over the subsequent five years.
He's certainly on his way. As one of the finalists in the RECESS Pitch competition, Li's newest venture is already experiencing remarkable success.
It's called UProspie and its goal is to change the way universities are defined today. Li explained that schools tend to be categorized by basic statistics like rankings, SAT scores or unfair stereotypes.
"Like University of Chicago is where fun goes to die, for example," Li, a current student at University of Chicago, told A Plus. "But we think it's important to break away from that for students to maximize their educational and social potential."
He pointed out that the student body is the most important factor about a university and, right now, there's nothing that can truly represent that for each respective school.
"We're here to provide relevant, tailored and better information to determine if a school is the right fit for you," Li explained.
Upon being asked how he came up with the idea, Li's tone became a bit more solemn. After moving to Chicago for school, Li began working with high school students who came from low-income families. He noticed that they were very bright but never thought about college as an option.
"Where I'm from, parents are dropping thousands of dollars for their kids to get into school," he said. "Uprospie can help students learn about the financial options and ultimately even out the playing field."
"The most powerful thing that this platform can provide is this idea that 'I did it and therefore so can you,'" Li said. "And that's really what cemented our confidence in this product."