ST Booking has a deep network in Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam and will use the funding to make it even stronger
In 2008, the Japanese government launched a ‘300,000 foreign students’ plan in an effort to more than double the amount of exchange students in the country (from 140,000) by the year 2020.
Eight years later, a Tokyo and Taipei-based startup named ST Booking is helping facilitate the process by providing a platform to connect Japanese educational institutions with Southeast Asian students hoping to study abroad in the East Asian nation.
ST Booking announced on Friday it had raised a US$200,000 seed round from Singapore VC firm BEENEXT and other undisclosed investors.
The money will be used to launch new products, market the company and increase its network across Southeast Asia. Currently, it has 1,100 education agents on its platform in Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
While ST Booking Founder and CEO Shota Morikawa said the company will initially focus on enhancing its current network, he did say it will keep an eye towards Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Nepal.
The English-language company is built on the principle of facilitating outreach to non-Japanese speaking students to make cultural education and immersion more accessible to pupils worldwide.
“Our mission to change this perception that Japan is somehow unwelcoming of foreign students,” Morikawa said.
“In fact, the Japanese government has a very strong mandate to internationalise the country and ST Booking aims to amplify the message globally.”
ST Booking calls itself a ‘B2B2C marketplace for educational consultants and travel agents targeting Japan-based education related services’.
However, the company is not out to come replace agents as a middleman, in fact, quite the opposite. It wants to be a place where they can find living accommodations, part-time job options and travel agencies — all meant to make travelling to Japan easier and more attractive.
The site aggregates information like language studies, degree programs and working holidays.
As a result, ST Booking has set up two headquarters, one in Tokyo and the other in Taiwan (and is registered in Singapore), in order to be more adaptable on both the supply (Southeast Asian students) and demand (Japanese educational institutions) portions of the company.
The website highlights of 5-step process of find opportunities, apply to schools, receive advice, prepare the application and, the most fun step, fly to Japan.
It is pushing back against a system with little options, so if a recruiter wants to bring students to Japan, they usually need to do so through consultancy firms or agencies.
Morikawa’s background is in the venture capital world as an Analyst at Scrum Ventures and a VC at East Ventures before embarking on his current enterprise, according to his AngelList profile.
BEENEXT is a Singapore VC firm targeting companies from India, Southeast Asia, Japan and the US.
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