Japan’s Crowd Cast fundraises from IMJ, looking to conquer expense management market with new app



See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Crowd Cast, a startup developing cloud services and apps for expense management, launched a new iOS app called Staple today. Coinciding with this, the company also announced today that it has fundraised an undisclosed sum from IMJ Investment Partners to strengthen service expansions in Japan and Asia.

Crowd Cast released late last year an expense processing app called BizNote Expense. This app allows users to input company expense records via smartphone, which then transmits the data to a company’s accounting system. But Crowd Cast learned from experience that users only need an expense record input app since most companies have legacy workflow systems for expense reimbursements.

That is why they split the workflow feature off from BizNote Expense and developed Staple, which is specifically focused on inputting expense records. Input records can be downloaded in CSV format on the web, enabling user records arrangement to conform with existing expense reimbursement systems.

The company’s CEO Takashi Hoshikawa explained:

We provide the personal edition of the Staple app for free, and its team edition, which we’re still working on, will be a paying app. By Launching the personal edition first, it helps users learn how to use the app and will lower the barriers for them to start using the Staple team edition when it’s live.

The Crowd Cast team developed the Staple app from scratch to prepare for the chance when possible heavy traffic is put on their cloud platform while more people start using the app on an individual basis rather than for their company. Moreover, the architecture restructuring may also help Crowd Cast add more functions to the app in the future.

Crowd Cast aims to launch the app’s desktop version for personal use, an Android version for personal use, and the team edition for all different platforms.

Worth mentioning is that the Android version will allow the import of transit riding records from contactless smart cards such as Suica or Pasmo, just by placing the smart card behind a handset of an NFC (near field communication)-enabled Android phone. For the Mobile Suica app, riding records will be automatically transferred to the Staple app, so that a user will not have to manually import records. The Suica and Pasmo platform’s smart-card system has a maximum capacity of 20 riding records, so a notification function will be added to the Android version so that users will not forget to import records from their smart cards.

Meanwhile, they have no plan to support the riding data importing function for the iOS version because iPhones do not have NFC chips. The new iPhone 6 has an NFC chip but is limited to Apple Pay.

US-based expense solution vendor Concur recently integrated with Uber and AirBnB, and allows users to import expense records from these “sharing economy” services, which will be followed by other companies like Expensify. In contrast with these trends, Crowd Cast is targeting Japanese/Asian city-dwellers with their solution, in particular with a public transit focus, to discourage standards-based formation of barriers against new market entries.

In this space, Japan and Singapore-based Klavis launched an app called Streamed, which also aims to support importing data from public transit smart cards.