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Lynk, a “knowledge-as-a-service” platform that connects domain-specific experts with businesses, has raised $24 million to fuel expansion in the U.S.
While there are myriad platforms and tools that unlock insights from vast swathes of data, Lynk offers an AI-powered engine that indexes “knowledge domains” and vetted experts to find answers to questions businesses are asking.
Founded out of Hong Kong in 2015, Lynk claims more than 840,000 experts spanning just about every business vertical. Want to find out the currently available cold-chain capacity in India and Southeast Asia to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution? Or whether reduced oil prices have affected demand for electric vehicles? What about how wellness trends and social distancing requirements will impact commercial real estate development? These are the types of questions Lynk wants to help answer.
Companies can use Lynk in a number of ways and can manually search for experts or browse trending topics to find someone knowledgeable about a specific subject.
Lynk’s AI-powered data engine generates what Lynk founder and CEO Peggy Choi calls a “multi-dimensional” relevance score. “Customers can ask recommended experts a couple of questions and then decide to engage in a conversation using our platform,” Choi told VentureBeat. “Our team is also available to help customers along the way. The relevance score and the human-in-the-loop approach operate such that the more questions come in, the more data we have around the topics and the experts. Essentially, the platform is getting smarter over time.”
It’s worth noting that users can also search for answers directly from transcriptions of their previous conversations, which Lynk automatically generates using speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP) and indexes for easy search and future reference. This also feeds into Lynk’s relevance score, as it can analyze conversations to extract data points and figure out the knowledge domains experts are most closely aligned with.
At its core, Lynk helps businesses circumvent information overload and find direct channels to those with the right knowledge. From here, customers can build their own searchable database.
“Our knowledge-as-a-service platform powers a range of next-generation tools for knowledge sharing and management, and the use cases are only growing,” Choi said. “It’s exciting to see how our customers are pioneering these solutions to manage their own knowledge and digital transformation needs.”
In terms of the competitive landscape, Choi refers to the broader space as “human expertise,” an expansive environment constituting everything from traditional consultancies and Q&A forums to market research firms and enterprise knowledge management solutions. “Our platform is very different,” Choi added. “At Lynk, we’re building a knowledge-as-a-service platform that provides human expertise at scale. Traditional expert networks and consultancies only focus on transactions with a specific end market segment, but we’re creating a whole ecosystem.”
Lynk charges through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription, alongside a usage fee that varies depending on the nature of the work. For example, one business may simply want to have an hour-long conversation with an expert, while other organizations may be looking to engage someone for longer-form initiatives spanning workshops or full-fledged projects.
As with any marketplace that promises to connect buyers with suppliers, vetting and verification is a vital aspect of establishing trust in the Lynk platform. How can customers be certain someone has the promised expertise and isn’t just Googling the answers and hoping for the best?
Checking the validity and veracity of 840,000 self-proclaimed domain experts is no easy task, and Choi said Lynk’s network is currently at “various stages” of the vetting process. Think of it as a funnel, and our experts are spread across that,” she said. “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.”
Some customers may even have additional requirements, such as identity checks, to ensure the person they’re speaking to really does have a Ph.D. in petroleum engineering.
“Customers can also ask recommended experts a couple of questions and obtain their responses before engaging experts in a conversation,” Choi continued. “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.”
Lynk had previously raised $6 million, and with another $24 million in the bank, the company said it plans to expand beyond Asia — where it has seen its sales grow over the past year — to double down on the U.S. market. The company’s latest funding round was led by Brewer Lane Ventures and MassMutual Ventures, with participation from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.
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