I Am Generation T: Peggy Choi

Leadership

June 22, 2018 | BY Lee Williamson

The 2018 Gen.T lister on her mission to democratise access to knowledge

I Am Generation T is a series of Q&As with some of the extraordinary individuals on the Generation T List 2018.

Peggy Choi is connecting the world to some of its greatest minds. Her knowledge-sharing platform Lynk builds bridges between companies and the expertise they need to drive them forward.

Businesses of all sizes, from multinationals to startups, connect with experts via Lynk’s data-driven service for consultations, advice or mentorship. Seasoned C-suite executives, scientists, engineers and specialist advisors can be engaged in everything from a quick Q&A to a multi-month consultation. 

For Choi, the company is an answer to a problem she saw repeatedly in the first few years of her career. Working in finance for multinationals, she found she had unfettered access to mentors and experts to help her along professionally, but small business owners, including her parents, were stood behind the glass looking in. Choi saw the potential to bring the two groups together.

“My parents are artists and entrepreneurs—they founded small art-related businesses that funded me through college,” says Choi. “Seeing the challenges they faced in their businesses was my motivation for starting Lynk. I wanted to make that expertise and knowledge available to everyone.”

Lynk has grown at a healthy pace since Choi founded the company five years ago, propelled initially by US$1 million in seed funding and then a US$4 million series A in April 2017, making it the first company to be supported by the Cyberport Macro Fund.

Today, Lynk has offices in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai, and China. Having started with just a few members, the platform now boasts 50,000 experts from 80 countries. Choi talks to Generation T about raising funds, productivity and the daily battle to get enough sleep.

What’s non-negotiable for you in business?
Quality. Just being excellent is not negotiable. I expect quality work from the people I work with, and from myself as well. That’s the only way to respect the people you work with, and to not waste other people’s time.

What was your biggest “A-ha moment” in business—a huge realisation that changed everything for you?
I think I have these moments almost every day! One of the biggest was realising that the process of starting a company on your own is about self-awareness. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses so you can surround yourself with people who are better than you in different areas to push things forward. No one is perfect so you’ve got to complement skillsets and strengths when building your team.

"Starting a company is like throwing yourself off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down"

What do you want to be remembered for?
As someone who had a positive impact on the world. Our mission at Lynk is to democratise access to expertise and knowledge. If we can achieve that, I think it can potentially bring a lot of value to society. That’s my ultimate driving force.

What’s your go-to productivity hack?
Talking to people. It might sound like chatting isn’t very productive, but talking something through—whether with colleagues or experts—helps you contextualise things better and connect the dots faster. For me that’s a hack.

See also: Meet 7 Young Game Changers Who Are Shaping The Future of Hong Kong

Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision that has contributed to your success so far?
A crucial moment was deciding to raise external capital. There’s different ways of starting businesses, and in many cases you don’t have to raise capital. You do it because you want to go pursue growth, and that requires capital to back. But it means there’s no turning back—you’ve got to go all out. That’s not just a work decision, it’s also a lifestyle decision. A very crucial moment.

What’s your favourite quote?
It’s from Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. He said, “Starting a company is like throwing yourself off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down.” It’s very true and helps you understand that, yes, it’s going to be messy. Every startup has the same problems, even a company like LinkedIn—and look where they are now. So that helps me not be so tough on myself.

Is there a book that changed your life that you think everyone should read?
Small Is Beautiful: A Study Of Economics As If People Mattered, by EF Schumacher. It’s “small is beautiful” in contrast to the idea in modern economics that bigger is always better. It changed how I think about the world. I was working in finance at the time, where bigger is always better: the bigger the returns the better, the more money the better. The book helped me realise that I’ve been raised with this school of thought that may not necessarily be universally true. It made me appreciate that there are many different paths and perspectives out there and there’s a lot more I can learn.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self when you were just starting out?
Try to get the answer to “why?” a lot earlier. The author and modern philosopher Simon Sinek has this framework of “start with why” that’s very useful. You see him on Instagram and all that so he’s not exactly Socrates, but it’s a solid framework that can be applied to both business and personal situations. With every decision you make, you should be very clear as to why you’re choosing that path, because it’s the “why” that drives what you’re going to do about it and how. 

With Lynk we always knew we wanted to democratise access to experts and knowledge, but the whole picture of how we were going to do it took some time to arrive with clarity. Both a blessing and a curse is that we were generating revenue from the early days of the company, so we had to balance the short-term goal of revenue generation with long-term planning from the very early days. That's the fun, and the challenge, of starting from scratch.

See also: Meet The Tribe: Aaron Lee

What’s an attribute every young entrepreneur needs to be armed with?
Confidence is very important. You need to be confident to attract investors and partners to work with you. If you don’t believe in yourself, you definitely won’t be able to get other people to believe in you.

Do you have a piece of advice for other young entrepreneurs that’s seemingly counter-intuitive?
Startups don’t necessarily have to raise money—there are ways to start businesses without external capital. It depends what your business is. You don’t have to go down the path of a tech startup and raise money.

For example, look at 100 Most. It’s a fantastic Hong Kong media startup that went public recently. A bunch of young guys started out with a physical magazine. These days the general opinion is magazines can’t make money, but 100 Most was really good at building a loyal following among the youth of Hong Kong and grew the business that way. Most people in the community think your startup has to be in tech to be successful, but not necessarily. If you’re interested in starting a business, there are a lot of things you can do.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I need a lot of sleep! But I don’t sleep much, so I guess that’s how much I love my work.

See all 50 of the game changing young talents on the Generation T List 2018.


Credits
Photography: Callaghan Walsh | Styling: Christie Simpson | Outfits: Theory

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