Linc raises $937K to help foreign students to Japan find education and employment

Founder and CEO Shiyo Naka (Siyao Zhong/仲思遥)
Image credit: Linc

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Linc, offering education and employment support services for foreign students to Japan, announced on Wednesday that it had raised approximately 100 million yen (about $937K US) in funding from Genesia Ventures and Beenext. The share ratios and payment dates were not disclosed.

Founder and CEO Shiyo Naka (or Siyao Zhong in Chinese pronunciation), Co-founder and COO Vincent Wang, and CMO Sophie Chow are all foreign nationals who have experienced working in major companies after studying in Japan. They founded the company after finding it easy to live in Japan as international students, but discovering that the system of studying abroad and working was lacking in efficiency and convenience.

Naka said:

There are more than 3.5 million Japanese learners alone in Asia, but the conversion rate of just 300,000 students studying abroad in Japan is very low.

The company is also aiming to meet the demand for cultural assistance by using E-learning to educate about daily life and work manners. When I asked Naka about the flow of coming from China to Japan to study, he related that in most cases after arriving in Japan students study in a language school for 1 to 2 years and then go on to enter a Japanese university. However, in the 1 to 2 years at a language school classmates advance at different rates, and it is necessary to prepare independent measures, apart from the language school, for taking the university entrance exams in Japan.

To solve this, the company released “Ling ke (羚課) Nihon Ryugaku (日本留学)” for the Chinese market, where the ratio of foreign students arriving to study in Japan in January of 2017 was highest. With this service, students can deepen their understanding of the knowledge necessary for attending a university in Japan through video lectures, exercises, questions and answers, etc. In a year, the company has joined together with more than 50 language schools nationwide, and the cumulative audience number for the live lectures exceeded 100,000 people.

One lecture at its longest is 15 minutes and is divided into smaller lessons. By doing this, in addition to maintaining the ability to concentrate, it is possible to focus on points that are difficult for the user, and realize personalized learning plans and steps for advancement for each individual user. Additionally, the company is also looking into a mechanism to utilize learning attitudes for credit scoring.

Naka added:

The majority of students coming to Japan have difficulty reviewing housing and opening bank accounts. In fact, since a cause of this is the difficulty in building trust, we hope to create standards through learning and working that can guarantee it.

A Profitable Business, Funding to Scale-up

From left: Founder and CEO Shiyo Naka (Siyao Zhong/仲思遥), CMO Sophie Chow (蘇菲), and Co-founder and COO Vincent Wang (王超)
Image credit: Linc

The service was released in January of 2017, but many of the users are foreign nationals who have come to Japan. On China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, many users are talking about and accessing the service, Linc itself has 80,000 social network followers, and CMO Sophie Chow doubles as influencer with over 500,000 followers. The company will continue to strengthen its social network marketing.

“In a single month the company itself turned a profit,” said Naka. Upon asking, “What about offering E-learning in other countries?”

He confided that the funds raised were for just that, server costs and scaling up. While living in China, some people bought teaching materials, but he felt that the server was lagging and slow to load so he sought to improve the user-friendliness.

In the future, the company aims to expand the introduction of Linc’s learning system to language schools throughout Japan, and to higher education institutions and international schools that provide Japanese language education in the Chinese language sphere. In addition, it looks to strengthen the production system and marketing contents, and to expand the target countries to include foreigners in Southeast Asia.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda