Student Stories, GRIP, Internships Abroad

Co-founders, Basketball, & Forbes

August 8, 2019
By Amy Yang, Wharton '22

Lynk - Hong Kong

My time at Lynk Global--a startup that helps consulting agencies find industry experts--has been filled with memorable interactions, but by far one of the most unforgettable experiences happened at RISE, the biggest tech conference in Asia.

When I found out that Lynk was selecting a team of interns to attend RISE, I, as an aspiring CIS minor, immediately knew I wanted a spot on the team. I began browsing the RISE website, gauging which speakers and panels I wanted to see. The selection of topics was varied and limitless: Fintech, eSports, SaaS, AI, MedTech, Robotics, AutoTech, and more. It seemed like every tech-related topic was going to be discussed and debated.

During my three days at RISE, besides listen to speakers and panels, I had the opportunity to interview ambitious startup founders that were there pitching to investors, watch live demos of robots programmed with the most advanced AI, and even listen to Penn’s very own alum Elie Seidman speak about his vision for Tinder’s future. Perhaps one of the most exciting events at RISE was PITCH, a high-stakes three day live pitch competition, where the most innovative startups contend for the grand prize.

Day three. Centre Stage. Three teams. It was the grand finale of the entire conference, and the finalists gave their last pitches for the title of PITCH champion at the greatest startup competition in the world. The three finalists, in no particular order, were: Presso, a dry cleaning vending machine designed for hotels; Booqed, kind of like Airbnb, but instead of homes it offers office spaces for work and meetings; and Haulio, a logistics startup that helps businesses get their containers moved.

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While all three startups’ pitches were equally impressive, the one that stood out to me the most was Presso. When Thibault Corens, co-founder of Presso, walked onto Centre Stage in front of a panel of 20 judges, I was shocked by how young he was. He seemed like he was barely older than me, yet he’d already founded his own company and pitched it in front of a huge audience with unwavering confidence.

After hearing his pitch, I wanted to learn more about his journey from being a student at Purdue to raising over $260,000 for his startup Presso. I reached out to him for an interview via the RISE app, and after our interview, he and his co-founder Nishant Jain invited me to the Night Summit, an end-of-the-conference networking event that brought together speakers, investors, startups, media and experts from every industry.

At the Summit, I asked Thibault and Nishant about their inspiration for Presso, what challenges they faced, and what lies ahead for them. We were constantly interrupted by eager investors who wanted to shake hands with the young superstars of the pitch competition, but nonetheless, we continued our conversation and even relocated to a nearby basketball court when the Night Summit ended. As Nishant attempted three-pointers, Thibault showed me photos of early prototypes they built for Purdue’s gym, before they launched their pilot kiosk at 16 hotels in the Midwest. He told me how they risked everything when they relocated from Indiana to Shenzhen right after graduation, and that if he offered me one piece of advice, it would be to never doubt yourself.

Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any more eventful, Thibault got a call. Forbes had just published an article featuring their startup, and their emails were blowing up with media and investors interested in their company. As they celebrated and responded to emails, I just couldn’t believe that I was here, in Hong Kong, talking to such an incredibly accomplished pair of young innovators.

My experience at RISE has not only given me a peek into the future of tech but also made me become more open towards the idea of taking a risk and creating my own startup--something that I had not seriously considered before. I’m grateful Lynk gave me the chance to immerse myself in the tech community and meet inspiring people like Thibault and Nishant. I believe tech is not only changing the future--it is the future.

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The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.