See the original story in Japanese.
Tokyo-based Crowd Cast, a startup offering expense balancing apps such as BizNote for Yayoi Online and Staple, announced earlier this month that they have secured series B round funding from Saison Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Japanese leading credit card company Credit Saison (TSE:8253), and IMJ Investment Partners (henceforth IMJ-IP). While the particulars of this investment have yet to be made clear, funding is thought to reach into the tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of dollars). As the series B round has not yet closed, Crowd Cast will continue inviting further investment from other companies, eventually looking to raise funding in the ballpark of about 1 million yen ($830,000).
Crowd Cast also secured an undisclosed amount of series A round funding from IMJ-IP in 2014. As for their investments from business firms thus far, this round’s investment from Saison Ventures comes after a $210,000 seed round contribution in May of 2013 from major Japanese accounting software developer Yayoi.
Crowd Cast began providing their expense balancing app for startups and mid-sized companies, Staple, in September of last year, but with this financial partnering with Saison Ventures, they are focusing on expanding Staple’s features and increasing users in cooperation with Credit Saison and their 35 million registered credit card user base. Concretely speaking, the methods of inputting expenses into Staple have been either manual input from receipts and invoices, etc., or by importing IC card use history data. In the future, however, it is expected that we will see functionality for connecting to online credit card use history data for Saison credit card users.
Crowd Cast CEO Takashi Hoshikawa spoke to The Bridge about this recent investment:
This year we did IC smart card use history reading through NFC (near field communication), so next we want to implement an OCR (optical character recognition) feature for importing receipts. We’ll be expanding our features in the direction of the Electronic Books Maintenance Act of Japan. Also we’re looking to strengthen our back-end infrastructure as well as integration with credit card systems.
With our corporate-aimed Staple Team, we’ve come to see the types of industries where our service will be made particularly necessary: advertising firms, real estate companies, and other industries with large numbers of employees. Especially in companies with many locations and large numbers of staff who aren’t supplied with computers for work, (expenses can be balanced using smartphones so) Staple Team is going to be an invaluable tool.
According to Hoshikawa, Crowd Cast has currently placed Staple Team in the research phase while they gather more information about the users’ needs, after which they will be proceeding with monetization. Moving into 2016, as many accounting type services will be boasting support for Japan’s new “my number” system, Crowd Cast says they aren’t particularly concerned with “my number” support. One reason for that might be that, rather than aiming to be a total accounting service, Crowd Cast are concentrating the focus of their solutions on expense balancing. In addition, they are currently considering the possibility of integrating their services with third party payroll management platforms.
Crowd Cast’s app designed for private-use, Staple, is free to use, but their commercial version built for team-based management, Staple Team, starts at 600 yen (about $5) a month. They have, however, began offering a “startup program” which makes Staple Team available to use for free for companies that are less than five years old, student entrepreneurs, as well as NPOs, so for startups in the early stages who don’t yet have a dedicated staff member handling accounting, this might be a good opportunity to try Staple Team.
Translated by Connor Kirk
Edited by Masaru Ikeda