ST Booking gains $200K in seed funding to bring more students from Asia to Japan



See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo- / Taipei-based ST Booking (previously known as Hakodate Ventures), the startup offering an education services marketplace under the same name, announced today that it has fundraised $200,000 in a seed round from several investors including Singapore-based Beenext and Tokyo-based IF Angel.

ST Booking was founded in September 2015 by Shota James Morikawa, a former associate at East Ventures as well as a former director at Japanese startup Hyper8. In addition to Morikawa as CEO, Tiffany Wu, vice president at Taiwanese angel/seed fund Pinehurst Advisors, and Mark Hsu, co-founder of Pinehurst, joined the company as founding members.

Shota James Morikawa delivered his pitch at B Dash Camp 2016 Spring in Fukuoka in March 2016. (Image credit: ST Booking)

ST Booking is a matching platform for connecting Southeast Asian students wishing to study abroad to Japanese educational institutions. Tying up with 60 language schools or business colleges in Japan, and more than 1,100 agencies in Taiwan, Thailand or Vietnam, ST Booking approaches with both B2B via agencies and B2C by directly acquiring students.

The recent Japanese government effort to attract 300,000 international students a year by 2020 is having a positive impact on the service. It monetizes with a “results reward” model; educational institutions will be charged 15 to 25% commission of the school fees. In the future, it aims to develop a CRM to optimize sponsorship relations with companies for employment after graduation or the study abroad processes.

Mark Hsu, one of the aforementioned founding members, is known as an investor in startups but also has been running a business called Envision Recruit, helping educational institutions market their services in Taiwan and other countries. His vast network and deep experience in this sector will be greatly beneficial to operating the ST Booking business. Furthermore, thanks to the Vietnamese educational ministry’s decision adding Japanese as the first foreign language to learn at elementary schools, the local rush to study Japanese is on a rise. While Singapore-incorporated ST Booking has offices in Tokyo and Taiwan, their team members appear to be busy traveling around the entire Southeast Asian region for sales and marketing.

ST Booking aims to use the fund to launch new services, increase brand awareness and enhance network building with more agencies in the region.

The ST Booking team members discuss with each other at an office in Vietnam. CEO Morikawa sits in the middle while co-founder Hsu stands on the left. Image credit: ST Booking

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy