As we have discussed earlier, Japan faces the need to simply and smoothen its bureaucratic systems to ensure it keeps up with the pace of modern business operations. There are many business opportunities in Japan in this area. And so, startups in Japan continue to develop solutions for paperwork automation.
Today we would like to talk about MakeLeaps, a Tokyo-based company that and grew from a small one-man enterprise to a major cloud invoicing platform in the country. Let us track the story of MakeLeaps and how it grew to be a leader in digitalization and automation of paperwork in Japan.
One for All
MakeLeaps was founded in July 2014 by Australian entrepreneur Jason Winder. The nature of its business as the company’s website summarizes is “the Cloud Business Invoicing Platform for Japan”. Why specifically for Japan? Because Japan still has a quite massive bureaucracy, and navigating it is requires a special set of skills and language abilities.
According to Mr. Winder, initially he developed the system to serve his own company’s needs. He started his business activities in Japan in the early 2000s as a freelancer and needed to send invoices. With the growth of his client network he needed to send more and more documents. And already in 2002-2003 he got into all kinds problems related to invoicing. Thus, he developed an algorithm that helped him to handle it easier and faster.
MakeLeaps provides support for postage of printed items, integration with Evernote, multiple users’ access for teams, use of many different currencies and has a bilingual interface.
Many of his entrepreneur friends, who have seen the algorithm, wanted something of the same nature to solve their invoicing issues, too. And so a platform that later became MakeLeps got the impulse to grow to suit many different types of business. Initially, its target users were freelancers as well as small and middle enterprises in Japan. Later, the platform was adjusted for the overseas businesses as well.
Already in 2014 MakeLeaps got USD 600,000 funding from 500 Startups and a founder of AngelList Naval Ravikant. Later, in 2016, they have acquired an undisclosed amount of funding from Rakuten and several other big investors. It allowed the company to implement many features that enabled MakeLeaps to become an authority in their industry.
Users of MakeLeps can issue estimates, invoices, and receipts, as well as purchase orders, bills, and so on. It provides support for different document types, postage of printed items for as little as JPY 160, integration with Evernote, multiple users’ access for teams, use of many different currencies (including US, Australian and Canadian dollars, Euros, Russian rubles and several other) and bilingual interface. In addition, it provides varied ways to mark and organize your documents as well as automatic creation of invoices and different presets.
MakeLeaps claims that one can handle invoicing two times faster using their services as compared to the regular practices. The platform became popular with accountants, tax consultants, and lawyers. Some of the Japan-specific features include a possibility to ass a Withholding Tax and even a Special Reconstruction Tax. Moreover, it has caught the attention of Ricoh, a photocopier company, who purchased the company in 2018.
Details and amounts of this purchase remained unpublished. However, Ricoh announced that by utilizing services developed by MakeLeaps it can create new customer value through digitalization of different tasks. Ricoh plans to collect more data using edge devices and bring AI and deep learning technologies for its analysis to improve company’s productivity and enhance sales growth.