JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-

Caster’s is reinventing Remote Work and aiding Startups in Japan and Germany

Mar 26, 2024

Today, remote work is a global trend, driven by the pandemic, which forced companies of all sizes around the world to operate fully, or nearly fully, remotely. Today, many workers prefer the convenience of a home office; some even choose the flexibility of freelancing rather than returning to the workplace.

A trailblazer in this field is the Japanese startup CasterExternal site: a new window will open., founded by Shota Nakagawa in September 2014, long before remote work was trendy, with a mission to enhance the recognition and value of remote work in society. For Naohiro KawamuraExternal site: a new window will open., who joined Caster in 2019.
“I saw a lot of potential,” said Kawamura, now the startup’s global business director. “Caster’s mission is to make remote work normal.”

Remote work is the foundation of Caster, and everyone – from the CEO down – is working remotely. Today, that is over 800 workers, providing services to more than 4,500 global businesses of varying sizes. What is especially impressive is the 95.6% retention rate(Retention rate is calculated as “100%-churn rate”).

“Of course, not everyone fits, but for those who do, they really enjoy the environment,” said Kawamura, “They can have more time with family, more flexibility, and they can travel. Often they say that they are so happy working for us.”

That is just one thing that makes Caster stand out from its competitors, of which there are plenty. But those services, like UpWork, allow remote workers, usually freelancers, to provide single services directly to clients, forcing them to compete directly for often low rates. Other services that provide virtual assistants charge a lot for each individual worker or only specialize in a particular field, like accounting. Caster, however, provides, under a single umbrella, the option to utilize multiple remote workers with different skills.

“If you have a contract for 30 hours, it can be very flexible. You don't have to use all 20 hours or human resources, you can have all the specialties with the single contract”,” said Kawamura.

In Japan, Caster provides a suite of more than 10 services, including Caster BIZ recruiting, accounting, and sales marketing. Notably, its Zaitaku Haken service matches highly skilled ex-managers and specialists with businesses for remote, flexible collaborations, while My Assistant offers virtual assistance for routine tasks.

Caster’'s remote workers have the flexibility to work from wherever they live (Photo provided by Caster)

They assign each client a dedicated project manager, providing a single point of contact for tasks, inquiries, updates, and requests. For clients, task management is simplified – they can submit a request, a project is coordinated and assigned to a dedicated team, and the project manager ensures the task is completed and delivered seamlessly.

With a diverse team of skilled remote workers, Caster streamlines processes efficiently, offering unlimited task requests under one comprehensive plan. Moreover, Caster’s remote workers are full-time employees, enjoying benefits and full-time salaries—fully vetted and reliable.

From 2014 until last year, Caster focused on the Japanese market, but they’ve recently expanded to a new market – Germany. With similar labor laws and also facing labor shortages, Caster saw an opportunity to adapt its model and show that remote work has broad global appeal.

“I approached JETRO, and they supported us on the legal and cultural part and introduced us to a lawyer who can speak Japanese, English, Germany, who was really good and is still working with us,” said Kawamura.

Caster’'s team presenting at Founders’ Reality in Germany, in December 2023 (Photo provided by Caster)

At the moment, most of Caster’s clients are startups in Japan and Germany. The appeal to a startup is quite evident, as Caster can provide a range of services via its remote workers—human resources, accounting, marketing, and design—that can be immensely valuable to new companies. Startups are also more accustomed to remote work, especially since the pandemic.

“Companies are more open to remote workers, and they now know that remote work can work for them,“ said Kawamura. “Importantly, they even created infrastructure, like remote servers or a SaaS accounting system, infrastructure fit for remote work. So that's a positive impact for us.”

But Caster does not want to limit itself, and, with remote work becoming more of the norm since COVID-19 changes how people work in 2020, they hope to attract more established medium and large companies, too.

“Some large enterprises still don't trust remote work fully,” noted Kawamura. “That's a challenge. Government is the same, we still have more room to provide services to them. It’s can be a mental barrier.”

In 2023 Caster hit a major milestone with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for shares in the company listed on the Tokyo Stock ExchangeExternal site: a new window will open.. For Kawamura, what is important is not the funds raised, but the recognition that their model has real staying power.

“We are the first company with an IPO with almost 100% remote workers. That gives us, and remote work, more credit,” said Kawamura.

Moreover, the potential of remote work has barely been tapped. Caster is growing today, faster than ever, and Kawamura can imagine the company having 10,000 or 20,000 workers someday. To achieve that, they’ll have to continue showing both workers and clients the potential benefits of remote work and continue to expand into new sectors in Japan and German, and, perhaps, new markets in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, too.

“With the funds we raised, that money we are now investing into the global market. That will give us more potential in growing to more areas, and industries,” added Kawamura.

Profile of Naohiro Kawamura,global business director of Caster

Joined Tohmatsu Consulting (now Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting), where he participated in projects such as ERP implementation and business revitalization. Subsequently, he gained experience in consulting for government, business revitalization planning and implementation support, M&A, etc., mainly in the retail distribution industry. After, he took on the duties of corporate planning, executive officer, and general manager of the corporate planning office at other companies.

In 2019, he joined Caster, where he was appointed Executive Officer in January 2020 and Director in November 2020.

Report by:
SASAGAWA Saki, Startup Support Division, JETRO

Report by:
WATANABE Keita, Startup Support Division, JETRO

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