Labster Has Raised $21 Million in Series B Funding for STEM Education Effort
Denmark-based virtual lab simulations startup Labster has scored $21 million in Series B funding for its virtual laboratory simulations or STEM students. The new funding round was led by Owl Ventures with participation from venture capital firms such as Swisscom Ventures, Balderton Capital and Northzone.
In its previous fundraising round, the startup was backed by various venture firms such as EduCapital, Nordic Makers, Entangled Group and Helgason. From the two funding rounds, the startup has now raised a total of $35 million.
The virtual lab simulations startup was launched in 2013 and specializes in providing learners with interactive lab simulations that are powered by virtual reality. Its VR simulations have been developed for students that want to explore science experiments in various fields such as chemistry, biology, physics, general sciences and engineering. Labster currently offers 70 virtual labs that are geared at helping increase interest in STEM curricula. The learning platforms offers learners massive benefits including improvements in retention rates and learning outcomes.
As the world grapples with ever more complex challenges and as students place more emphasis on business courses and the liberal arts, there has been a frenzied effort to promote STEM-related careers to meet the shortfalls. These careers are also, increasingly, much better paying so demand for STEM-based education has been increasing and growing in greater importance over the past few years. One of the main bottlenecks to STEM education is the lack of accessibility to the well-equipped and often costly high-tech science labs or even the time to partake of the lab activities that will equip them with necessary critical skills needed to train competent professionals.
Labster was created to fill in these gaps. The startup offers a fully interactive virtual lab simulation that has been designed to both engage and stimulate the natural curiosity of the student in science concepts. Labster’s interactive simulation provides learners with an environment where they can perform experiments and explore various lab scenarios at a much lower cost than in your typical brick-and-mortar laboratory. The end result is a modern science learning environment that not only saves time but is also cost-effective.
As of 2018, Labster’s virtual labs were used by more than 150 universities around the world. The startup’s annual growth has quadrupled and the virtual reality learning platform is currently available to more 200,000 learners from around the world.
Some of the educational institutions where the VR STEM learning platform has been deployed include MIT, Harvard, Exeter University, Stanford and ETH Zurich. The startup has also cultivated new partnerships with various industry leaders in both the educational and technology sectors such as Pearson, Arizona State University, Google, Lenovo and Springer.
Labster plans to use the latest round of its fundraising in accelerating the expansion of its STEM content catalog and also in developing new lab simulations. The latest round of funding will also be used by the startup in scaling up its US operations.
The startup is at a sweet spot where it is currently not facing any competition. In fact, the company boasts that the only rival it has to grapple with is “the status quo”. Many learning institutions are still reluctant to make the quantum leap into adopting virtual reality lab simulations even though the technology has been shown to improve student engagement and achievement. According to Labster, the inertia is coming from educational leaders who feel they lack the time as well as knowledge to deploy VR lab simulations into their teaching. As a result, the company is keen on investing in training and on-boarding programs in various institutions that will equip educators with the skills needed to start implementing virtual reality labs.
The startup is focused on working with educators at every step of the way in adopting the VR lab simulations to ensure a successful implementation of the technology in the learning environment. To realize that goal, Labster has been selling its content subscription services to various high schools and universities. Labster currently provides end users with two subscription models namely, the institution accounts and the individual student accounts.