Japan’s LabBase, job-matching platform for science students, raises seed round funding

L to R:Beenext Partner Hiro Maeda, POL CEO Michiaki Kamo, POL Senior Managing Director Yukihiro Yoshida, CyberAgent Ventures Takashi Kitao

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup POL, which operates a human resource database consisting of science students called LabBase, announced on Monday that they secured 50 million yen (about $452K US) in a seed round. This round was led by Beenext with participatin from CyberAgent Ventures, Draper Nexus, Beyond Next Ventures, and angel investors also participating. The company’s valuation, investment ratios, and names of the angel investors were not disclosed. POL will strive to strengthen their system development process with the funds received this round.

POL was established in September of 2016 by Michiaki Kamo, a second year student of the University of Tokyo’s Natural Sciences II program. Kamo is a serial entrepreneur who was involved in launching the Bivie online diet service which was spearheaded by under the jurisdiction of Singapore-based Reapra Group’s HealthBank. Additionally, former Executive Vice President of Gulliver International (now IDOM) and outside director of FiNC Yukihiro Yoshida is part of the team which currently consists of 10 core members.

POL is working on correcting imbalances in supply and demand for science students seeking employment and those looking to employ them. Nearly 80% of graduating students using the typical job hunting sites and attending job fairs that make up the employment marketplace are from the humanities, while the remaining 20% hail from the sciences. There are a number of reason science students do not make the rounds.

  1. They secure employment on the recommendation of their department or a professor before beginning the hunt for a job.
  2. They are busy with research so it becomes hard to spare time for job hunting. There are also cases of laboratories banning students who also do internships.
  3. Their knowledge of job hunting practices is low. (The idea that they know people who got jobs based on recommendations, so they’ll somehow manage….etc.)

On the other hand, it is not as if students of science are satisfied with current job hunting conditions. For them, the biggest problem is that even if they refine their expertise and skills, it is not easy to find a work environment that can make use of them. Despite not being satisfied, they must choose to take a job where they can get it, or if they cannot find fitting employment they may remain at university to continue their research, resulting in the postdoctoral researcher problem.

In order to solve such a problem, LabBase provides an environment where students can post profiles to the Accademia such as research portfolios, papers, presentation history at academic societies, contents of experiments, etc. and connect with companies. Pre-registration began for companies in December of last year with about 100 companies total signing up. Following the start of the official service this year, 20 of those companies are using the service for free.

Meanwhile, they have gathered about 550 student users so far, and about 70% are science students from the University of Tokyo and Tohoku University. If you add in users from Hokkaido University, the University of Tsukuba, Kyoto University, and Osaka University, 90% is accounted for. The company does not advertise or engage in marketing, but they do have a network of 50 ambassadors around Japan and thus have been able to accumulate such a number of core users. Ambassadors work free of charge, but in spite of no monetary incentive they are cooperating to help acquire new users and strengthen engagement because they sympathize with POL’s vision of a happy environment for science students seeking employment it is said.

In the same field sometimes labeled “Lab x Tech” or “Lab Tech”, Acaric is a competitor for POL in Japan, however the market share has not yet been wholly dominated. In the US there are lab tech startups like ResearchGate, Figshare, The Center for Open Science, Science Exchange, Instrumentl, and Quartzy, etc. and we can expect to see POL use them to benchmark trends in the future.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda