Peggy Choi founded her company on one clear principle: knowledge is everything. Lynk is a digital platform that connects users with Knowledge Partners – subject matter experts from around the world, for research, live conversations or long-term professional development.
How to democratize knowledge
Choi’s vision of a scalable hub of information grew from her personal experience. She worked with data as a consultant but felt that the information system was inaccessible and underutilized. Likewise, her parents would come to her with business questions that she felt unqualified to answer. This pushed Choi to start Lynk in 2015, along with Chief Revenue Officer Evan Xiao Han and Director Jennifer Li.
Lynk aims to democratize knowledge by making it accessible for everyone. The company’s information ecosystem helps users easily locate the experts they need. There are 840,000 experts, or Knowledge Partners, on the platform. Their areas of expertise range from technology to Hollywood. Users can ask specific, targeted questions, or work with Knowledge Partners for research, consulting or even career advice. Lynk is AI-driven. It matches relevant experts and transcribes virtual conversations. The system develops and improves with use.
Global team, global reach
While women and people of color are often underrepresented in tech, Lynk has an almost equal number of men and women equally. More than twenty nationalities are on staff. As Choi explains, diversity is in the company’s DNA.
“As a testament to that mission, we’ve already built a team of more than 200 that is more than 50 percent female, represents over 20 nationalities across eight countries and a gender-neutral board,” said Choi. “This gives us a diversity of thought and perspective, which helps us stay innovative and representative.”
Recently, Lynk hosted the second Lynk Elite Expert Women, a program that collects donations for girls’ education on International Women’s Day. For every woman expert that signs up for Lynk, the company donated HKD$100 to the Malala Fund. The charity assists the work of education activist Malala Yousafzai in helping girls across the world go to school.
“We are proud to provide tools and support for women to excel in their respective careers,” said Choi.
Investment turning point
Lynk has over 840,000 experts and continues to grow. When Choi started in 2015, however, she received pushback from investors who felt that her scope was too wide. Once she found funders who understood her vision, she was able to move forward.
Choi offered advice for other entrepreneurs facing discouragement and refusal. She stressed that finding funding is a complicated system with many potential hurdles. This includes:
- The process is subjective, and not always based on factual data.
- Investors evaluate you along with your company – do you have the ability to succeed?
- Some investor advice will contradict itself, and not every suggestion is useful.
- People usually have good intentions, but everything is based on their individual perspective and experience.
To Choi, the key is knowing your business better than anyone else. Keeping that in mind will help you sort through the feedback. Your company’s vision should be clear. Choi also mentioned a product roadmap, customer wins and growth plans – all helped Lynk succeed.
The current program, Lynk Answers, covers the research and learning aspects of the business. Upcoming products will include Lynk Circle and Lynk Infinity. Choi will share more details within the coming months.
Choi also aims to make Lynk a major player in the data industry and thereby transform our access to knowledge.
“We hope to be the first place businesses go to find the best answers. If Lynk can continue to expand access to knowledge, I believe we will transform how questions are asked,” she said.
To learn more about Choi and Lynk’s approach to democratized knowledge, read our full interview below.
Could you walk through your background and career leading up to founding Lynk?
Before founding Lynk, I was a super user of expert consultancies. I was at Silver Lake and TPG, so I’ve seen exactly how we could improve this system and where access to expertise should be expanded. That was a great way to learn the intricacies of what needed to be changed.
Additionally, my parents are artists and entrepreneurs, but they often came to me with questions on how to scale their businesses. I didn’t feel like I could give them the best insight, so I figured there needed to be a way to enable access to that knowledge and expertise in a scalable way.
That’s why I launched Lynk in 2015 with my colleagues Evan Xiao Han, Chief Revenue Officer and Jennifer Li, Director.
Why did you create Lynk? What was the motivation?
The idea that access to knowledge and expertise can be brought to scale drove me to start Lynk. We wanted to fill a knowledge gap and allow everyone to access credible knowledge through vetted experts.
We’ve been able to do just that. Our core solution, Lynk Answers, connects institutions and companies to 840,000 global experts to make better business decisions. Using data to index knowledge domains and experts, our engine delivers highly relevant discovery and matching of questions to experts and answers with a human-in-the-loop approach to drive a virtuous cycle. We’re making knowledge sharing faster and easier than ever. The use cases are growing, and we have new applications in the works that enable knowledge sharing and knowledge management in new ways.
Could you explain the purpose of Lynk? How do users utilize it to find and share knowledge? What types of projects is it used for?
Human expertise is already a $400B market. People need ease of accessibility, but the challenge has been accuracy and credibility. Our purpose is to address this challenge with a unique approach.
At Lynk, we’ve created a platform that gets smarter with more customers and usage. We’ve transformed the commercial model that traditional consultancies have used by lowering the entry point to access that knowledge. We’re consolidating these offerings at scale, and also innovating on new ways for companies to manage knowledge like never before.
Customers primarily use Lynk Answers for research, learning and verification. We also see an emerging use case in exploring what people have done before, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Our platform is easy-to-use, eliminating the email chaos with traditional consultancies. This gives customers more control and increases productivity. Customers use this for long-term and short-term projects.
Some examples of questions our experts answer on the platform:
- What is the current available cold-chain capacity in India and Southeast Asia to support supply of vaccines? Is there any cold-chain capacity for rural areas? Will it become a constraint for the supply of vaccines in this market?
- Has reduced oil prices affected demand for electric vehicles? What is the total addressable market for electric vehicle charging?
- What is the hospital procurement regulation in this market? When hospitals in this market purchase medical devices, wat is the typical selection process?
- How will wellness trends and social distancing requirements affect commercial real estate development?
How do you find and determine Knowledge Partners, and how are they vetted?
We source our knowledge partners or experts, as we call them, globally, from a wide range of industries such as technology, sustainability and even Hollywood. Experts are in various stages of the vetting process – think of it as a funnel and our 840,000 experts are spread across that. At the initial stage, it involves data-driven identification and matching to trending demand. As we go through the funnel, there are incremental verifications, screening questions and answers at various steps. For some, customers may configure additional requirements such as identity checks.
Customers can also ask recommended experts a couple of questions and obtain their responses before engaging experts in a conversation. Our team is also available to help customers along the way. We believe that if someone out there knows something, others can learn from it. At that point, it’s about classifying, organizing and recommending the right experts and answers to the question.
What do users gain from joining the network?
For experts on the platform, joining the network gives them access to work with top global businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, global asset management firms, media, government agencies, consulting firms, multinational enterprises, non-profits and startups. Other than consultation and consulting projects, there are also speaking, mentoring and board advisory engagement opportunities. Additionally, they also get the ability to earn a second income while being empowered to share their expertise to guide companies with their business decisions.
As for users, we enable new ways with our data analytics for customers to discover relevant insights and build data from it. There are a couple components that we offer to our customers.
Our AI strategies are centered around the data of experts and knowledge domains. This helps us understand and predict what an expert may know. We essentially have to be able to predict and then verify that. Then there is the incremental learning that happens through this virtuous cycle, which makes our engine smarter and provides customers with more relevant recommendations and experts.
We’ve focused on how you can digitize this process to discover relevant experts and answers quickly, and help customers build a knowledge base over time. We also use speech recognition and NLP technologies. Conversations with experts can be automatically transcribed and organized for easy search and reference. We also analyze the conversations to extract data points, which in turn, helps us better understand knowledge domains and experts.
Beyond the data, our new products also provide companies with new comprehensive knowledge management solutions to consolidate their experts and networks all on the same platform.
Overall, we’ve found that our approach allows us to offer customers 40 prcent in cost savings as compared to traditional consultancy options.
You’ve discussed how investors initially doubted your ideas. Was there a particular turning point when it changed? Do you have any advice for other female entrepreneurs who are also facing discouragement?
The turning point was when we met the right investors who also see our vision. The fact that we have delivered on our product roadmap, customer wins and growth plans also helped. My experience with fundraising is that there are subjective aspects of the process that we as founders need to embrace as investors are indeed evaluating us as individuals, whether or not we have the abilities to build and scale our ventures. And during the process of seeking investors, you will get a lot of contradictory advice and suggestions about the best path forward. But you know your business the best. Usually, the people giving advice have good intentions, but that’s their perspective. You have to learn to really discern what advice is good and what is bad.
Your goal is to “democratize access to knowledge”—could you describe this idea? What does Lynk do differently from other companies?
We think of the space as “human expertise.” It’s a broad space. It encompasses a range of companies, from traditional consultancies, online Q&A forums and market research firms to enterprise knowledge management solutions. Traditional expert networks and consultancies only focus on transactions, with a specific end market segment, but we’re creating a whole ecosystem. Human expertise is already a $400B market. People need ease of accessibility, but the challenge has been accuracy and credibility. There is no shortage of need for this platform.
To us, this goal is something that is important to the world. Having access to knowledge is like having a chance.
You’re fed a lot of information and answers daily, and you want to know what answers are worth trusting. Credibility is key. Even with WebMD – you can look up all kinds of medical information but we still need to see a doctor, sometimes more than one, to get multiple viewpoints. You now have an AI-driven platform that can find credible people whose knowledge and points of views you can trust. Instead of just Googling any question, you’re going to Lynk for the right know-how.
What was the process of building such a worldwide reach? How long did it take to establish a footing?
Via digital marketing and referral programs, as well as partnerships with groups and organizations. We also invite high value experts to join. Typically, we keep top trending areas and have our expert acquisition efforts reflect trending demand. When we get questions, our system and team would initiate invitation to experts that can be potentially relevant. We get thousands of questions a day. And it’s growing quickly. In that vein, it’s allowed us to grow our experts to over 840K with experience from more than 1.2M companies across 80+ countries. Our experts include C-level executives, thought leaders, scientists, managers, engineers, independent consultants, lawyers, accountants, financial analysts, and others, across a breadth of sectors such as internet technology, consumer goods, finance, pharmaceuticals and healthcare.
On the user side, in the last 5 years, we’ve grown to over 200 enterprise customers. People need the ease of accessibility, but the challenge has been accuracy and credibility. There is no shortage of need for this platform.
Lynk has a particular focus on global diversity and gender equality, particularly with the Lynk Elite Expert Women donation program. Why are these values important to you and to the company?
Diversity and inclusion are not just a narrative for us; they are in our DNA. We’re working to solve this problem by creating a business culture that centers around gender equality. As a testament to that mission, we’ve already built a team of more than 200 that is more than 50 percent female, represents over 20 nationalities, across eight countries and a gender-neutral board. This gives us a diversity of thought and perspective, which helps us stay innovative and representative.
For the second-straight year, we’re launching Lynk Elite Expert Women, an initiative in celebration of Women’s History Month that encourages women who are experts in their fields to sign up for the platform.
With each new female expert sign-up, we are committed to donating HKD$100 to the Malala Fund to support girls’ equal education. This is important to us because we are proud to provide tools and support for women to excel in their respective careers. Through this initiative and our platform, we’re sourcing female experts and giving them a platform to share and monetize their expertise to help businesses make better decisions.
Would you like to share any details on upcoming programs such as Lynk Circle and Lynk Infinity?
We’re so excited about all of our upcoming product launches. Some of our customers are implementing the entire product suite that we offer! I can’t give any specifics yet, but I can say that we’re planning to release new products in the coming months that provide comprehensive knowledge management solutions that will help businesses consolidate their experts and networks all on the same platform.
What is your goal or future vision for Lynk?
We’re on a mission to transform and enable access to human knowledge at scale while creating a more gender-equal world by elevating women across the globe.
Is there anything not discussed so far that you would like to mention?
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Lynk. As a society, we don’t talk enough about how technology can transform access to knowledge, especially for women in the workforce. There is still a large gap to be filled and we are the market leader defining this Knowledge-as-a-Service industry, and our knowledge platform is getting smarter every day.
I’m confident that we’re on the right track and am excited to see what we can bring to the market this year.