Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Bolun Li. I took a risk when I was 14 and moved across the world to the U.S all by myself. I didn’t speak English well at the time, had no family or friends in the U.S. and had to navigate my way through school, host families and countless other uncomfortable situations. There were frustrating times, but I didn’t give up. Today, I have successfully started two business in the U.S., had one exit, and have the opportunity to study at Duke University. My focus right now is building a mobile banking app that coaches teenagers about finance.
What exactly does your company do?
My company is called Zogo. We are developing a mobile banking app that coaches teenagers about personal finance. Parents can automate allowance, set up rewards for chores & tasks, and send money to their teens in the form of a regular Zogo Paycheck. Teenagers, upon receiving the paycheck, will learn about budgeting, taxes, savings, credit, and so on. Incorporating the latest research in artificial intelligence and behavioral economics, Zogo doesn’t just track and report historical data on teenagers spending, but actually improves their spending habits and overall financial wellness.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
As a young international student, a big challenge has been getting the first meeting with a representative from potential partners or financial institutions. However, once I get an initial call or meeting with the right person, I’m confident they can be convinced that they should work with me.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
I wish someone would keep reminding me of the importance of having a singular focus. There are so many options today of things to do, and it can be distracting. It’s always easier when you can find something that you really enjoy and are passionate about – for me it’s Zogo.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
This might sound cliche but my biggest influencer is Elon Musk. I believe that nothing is impossible and I should never give up on what I love.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
The entire Duke network has been extremely helpful, especially the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship network. The Duke network has been so generous with their time, and we have gotten invaluable advice from some of the busiest people in the world. One day I hope to be able to return the favor to future aspiring entrepreneurs.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
I’m only 19 and I feel so young, but taking the risk to come the U.S. has been my greatest success. I’m looking forward to the many challenges ahead.
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