#Asia SmartHR kills paperwork, wins TechCrunch Tokyo pitch battle


techcrunch tokyo 2015 pitch battle winner smarthr

No one likes paperwork, but it’s an inescapable part of making just about anything official. From changing your address to getting married, myriad important tasks require visiting a local government office to put pen to paper – often stacks of papers. For small- and medium-sized business owners, Tokyo-based startup Kufu is targeting the particularly cumbersome (and paperwork heavy) task that is personnel management.

Kufu’s SmartHR service replaces physical documents and face-to-face meetings with public servants by putting everything in the cloud. Simply fill out an online form and the startup will generate digital versions of pension, employment insurance, and other HR-related documents – which can then be submitted to the appropriate offices at the click of a button.

The startup claims that it can reduce the time it takes to file new employee paperwork – usually a three-week process – to just one week. For companies that outsource their personnel filings to an attorney, SmartHR can also save them a lot of money. Attorneys charge roughly JPY 20,000 (US$162) per filing, whereas SmartHR charges as little as JPY 980 (US$8) a month for companies with five or fewer employees (the most expensive tier is JPY 19,800 (US$160) monthly for a maximum of 50 employees).

kufu smarthr japan startup paperwork

In addition to reducing paperwork, SmartHR also acts as a digital filing cabinet for employee records. More than 200 companies in Japan have already adopted the service.

Despite similarities to Silicon Valley unicorn Zenefits, the judging panel of venture capitalists and both current and former journalists chose SmartHR as the TechCrunch Tokyo 2015 startup battle winner.

“We’ve seen this vertical boom in the US,” said Kim-Mai Cutler, a San Francisco-based TechCrunch reporter. “So there’s a big opportunity for [a startup] with local knowledge.”

SmartHR beat out 11 other startups from Japan and Korea to take the grand prize. Winners of sponsor-specific prizes included Bonx, a voice-activated wearable walkie talkie targeting the action sports crowd; OneTapBuy, a personal asset management app; and Open8, a female-focused video ad platform.

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