Entrepreneur Peggy Choi On The Struggles She Faced Building Knowledge Sharing Platform, Lynk Global
In the Turning Points series, we talk to a Generation T honouree about the challenges they have faced throughout their life, and discuss how it has gotten them to where they are today.
Early into her finance career, Peggy Choi was quick to realise that connections play a big part in your personal and professional success. “When you talk to the right person, it opens your eyes to opportunities you mightn’t have been aware of,” she says.
“At the time I was trying to talk to the right people for my own career and personal choices,” she says. “I was trying to determine what kind of business and life I wanted to commit my time to. I was trying to find my calling.”
Her struggle to get connected with the people who could help her further her career sparked an idea—what if she could connect people with reputable experts from different industries online?
To find out, she quit her job in finance and ventured into the startup space. The risk paid off.
In 2013 she founded Lynk Global, a platform where businesses can gain access to a pool of mentors and experts. Now, Lynk Global’s network has more than 780,000 knowledge partners and has pioneered the idea of selling knowledge as a service on a global scale.
Here, Choi tells Gen.T about some of the biggest moments in her life—turning points that shaped her personal and professional journey and set her on the path to who she is today.
"I had major spinal surgery at 14" and learnt that not everything is rosy
When I was about 14 years old, I had to have major spinal surgery because I was suffering from scoliosis, Choi says. “I’d had it since I was about 10, but it was idiopathic—meaning doctors didn’t know why I had it, and it was pretty bad by the time I was 14. It was a major surgery and I had to stay in the hospital for about two months.”
“They had to put a rod in my spine and I had to relearn how to just hold myself up. I had to relearn how to walk,” she says. “I remember I was really upset because I had to stay in the hospital while everyone else was out on summer vacation. And as a kid I was really into sports; I had done ballet since I was three but after the surgery, I couldn’t do any more contact sports, which was really crushing for me at that age.”
“It took me a couple of years to get used to how to move post-surgery. But I was rebellious! By the end of the second year I got back into dancing and the doctor wasn’t too happy about it,” Choi laughs.
“This was a real turning point for me because I learnt a lot about myself—going through that stress and change and understanding that some things are outside of your control. You can do your best to try to craft your path but you can’t plan everything.”.
Choi says that she applies what she learnt from her childhood experience to her life now. “Resilience is key,” she says. “Not everything is rosy and perfect, so how do you take something that can be distressing and try to find something positive from the situation? I think it’s all about keeping that growth mindset.”
In the initial years people would often tell us that our vision was too big—that it's too tough and that we won’t get there… But whenever I get told it won’t work by investors, I get more energy and want to prove them wrong.
Finding myself in an industry of stereotypes
“In finance my experience was that there was something to show—you’re doing deals and you’re evaluated based on that. But in entrepreneurship, especially when you’re starting out and trying to pitch, you’re really pitching yourself—and that means you need to get the investors to like you and trust that you can build this [company]. So it’s super subjective,” Choi says. “From time to time, I’d get questions asking whether I was married or had a boyfriend, whether I had kids, and asking if I lived by myself or with my parents. You know, it happens… Trying to understand my family planning… That stereotype is there, it’s in the US, Asia and Europe.”
There is sometimes an expectation that all founders pitching are going to fit into a Steve Jobs or Adam Newman stereotype, Choi explains. “And I don’t necessarily agree with that because there are so many different kinds of people and so many different ways of creating a business. Some of the most successful companies in the world don’t have that kind of celebrity founder.”
She knew she wasn’t going to fit into that ‘celebrity founder’ stereotype, and after several frustrating pitch meetings, Choi realised she was going to 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 so you have to learn to really discern what advice is good and what is bad.”
“We’re not in the business of pleasing people, we’re in the business of creating something meaningful,” Choi says. “That was a big turning point for me… how I handled this taught me to have strong conviction and I really gained a lot of confidence throughout the process.”
"We got told our vision was too big"—but we proved them wrong
“In the initial years people would often tell us that our vision was too big—that it's too tough and that we won’t get there. We’d be explaining some technology that we’re using and you can see the investors just mentally switch off… But whenever I get told it won’t work by investors, I get more energy and want to prove them wrong,” Choi laughs.
She explains that many investors were really doubtful that Choi and her team could manage to get global firms, institutions and large companies as their customers. “In a way you have to really prove them wrong and I think we have. We’ve created a global base and have some of the largest companies in the world [as clients],” she says.
The doubt surrounding her idea during Lynk’s first two financing rounds induced a lot of self-doubt at the time, Choi admits. “I didn’t doubt the vision, but I did doubt myself. It’s a risk because it affects everyone that works with you—there’s a lot of responsibility sitting on your shoulders. And that was something I had to learn to be comfortable with.”
“But now it’s very different,” she says. “We have the platform, customers and revenue to show. Investors are really excited and they are like, ‘My God, if this can happen it can change the way we consume knowledge and information!’ So I think while this is in the past now, at the time it was really frustrating because it made so much sense to me and if it makes sense, then it’s worth doing.”
See more honourees from the Technology category of the Gen.T List