James Li ’94 has always been an entrepreneur at heart. While working at Gateway after graduating from Northwestern College, he opened a successful store in Sioux City’s Southern Hills Mall that sold collectible arts, jewelry and crafts from the Orient and Europe.
Syntax-Brillian's Olevia television family is one of the world's fastest-growing consumer brands.
That same entrepreneurial spirit led him to LCD televisions. He was looking for an industry that was in the very early stages. In 2003, LCD TVs were still prohibitively expensive, but the market was growing. Li bought Sony and Sharp TVs, took them apart and learned that 99 percent of the components are made in Asia. With his cross-cultural abilities, he saw a Michael Dell-like opportunity to get in on the ground floor.
With three employees and less than $300,000, Li founded Syntax Groups Corp. and began manufacturing Olevia-brand LCD televisions. The company merged two years later with Brillian Corp., a company that designs and develops rear-projection HDTVs, to become Syntax-Brillian.
Now the company is publicly traded under the NASDAQ symbol BRLC. Besides producing LCD TVs under the Olevia brand, Syntax-Brillian has a portfolio of LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) technologies as well as micro-display high-definition televisions (MDTV).