Hong Kong-based Lynk, an online service that connects enterprise users to experts in a variety of fields, announced a US$4 million series A round today.
The round is led by the Hong Leong financial group and joined by Hong Kong’s Cyberport, construction and engineering company Zhuhai Da Heng Qin (DHQ), and CRE Venture Capital, which focuses on African markets. Singapore-based Wavemaker Partners, which led Lynk’s US$1 million seed round in 2015 back when the company was known as The Straits Network, also participated.
Lynk founder and CEO Peggy Choi started the company in 2013 to solve a problem she saw in everyday business relationships around her. Both throughout her studies and during her stints as an investor and analyst for a number of firms in Asia and the US, she realized she had constant access to expert knowledge. “At every step of the way, I had advice from mentors who helped me along,” she tells Tech in Asia.
Meanwhile, people like her parents, who own and operate an art gallery, and other small business owners, would regularly ask her for business advice that she didn’t necessarily have. But she knew who did. “These things kind of came together,” she says, and Lynk was born.
Lynk operates on a software-as-a-service model, where business customers pay the company for access to its pool of mentors. Lynk claims to have over 35,000 experts across 70 countries and a “growing number of industries.” They include C-level executives, scientists, engineers, independent consultants, and specialist advisors.
The #startup’s services are available through subscription or other payment packages. Customers come to the website with questions and the platform taps the right person to offer advice. An expert can be engaged for a simple Q&A session, all the way to multi-month projects. In one case, Peggy shares, the client ended up hiring the expert.
Lynk sources its advisors through internal network referrals and checks their background and expertise. “Someone’s background is important, but that person’s experience and what they actually know are vital,” Peggy says. “So we have the experts provide us with information and data about themselves so we can understand them as an expert instead of just as a CV.”
Those who offer their advice through the website are compensated according to their level of seniority and time of engagement. “But a lot of times it’s not just about the money,” Peggy says. For example, the platform features many retired executives who don’t really care about the extra income but want to stay active and share their expertise.
Lynk will use the funding to expand its market coverage and continue developing its tech. It will also hire more people across its various territories – at the moment the company has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mumbai. The team has doubled in size between its seed round and now, Peggy says.
The connection to DHQ will also help Lynk enter the Chinese market. The startup expects to open its first office in the city of Zhuhai in the next few months.
The company works with enterprise customers that include both startups and larger organizations like investment companies and consultancies. Peggy declined to share more details about Lynk’s customers and revenue. She says the company’s growth so far has been through word of mouth, but now a dedicated sales team will take over.
Peggy feels the product is a good alternative to things like market research reports that cost a few thousand dollars and offer very specific information. In comparison, a Lynk client can spend a few hundred dollars for a personal consultation where all their questions can be answered.
The model makes sense but can be costly for a company that has to compensate all those experts. 500 Startups partner Vishal Harnal tells Tech in Asia that the model has value but can be undercut by people getting in touch directly with established companies that already serve as directories for experts.
Peggy says the company is very focused on its unit economics but doesn’t offer more details. She feels that Lynk offers access to these experts for people and companies that don’t normally have that avenue available to them. “The whole concept a little bit like sharing economy,” she says.
Much like her investors, and as a former investor herself, Peggy believes in building a sustainable company for the long term. “We have a 10 to 15-year view of our business,” she says. Lynk is thinking less about fast exits and more about how to spend money efficiently.
“It’s all about efficient use of capital, not growth at all costs,” she adds.