Clark Boyd, of The World's Technology Podcast, recently interviewed Sproxil CEO and co-founder Ashifi Gogo about his new counterfeit-fighting technology. Gogo describes the basic premise of Sproxil, which basically combines scratch-off labels and SMS technology on cell phones to validate medicines sold in the developing world. Gogo stated that the technology was originally intended to be used on the organic industry, but by the time his method was ready for introduction, organics were already an established market. So the company went in another direction, re-tooling the technology so that it could be used to fight counterfeit medicines instead, which pose a $75B problem around the globe. Sproxil is currently trialing the technology in Nigeria, where up to 33% of medicines sold are fake. Gogo explains that there are checks done at ports and borders in West Africa, but there is no "crowdsourced" approach to identify substandard medicines. As many readers already know, Sproxil works with legitimate manufacturers by providing them with one-time use scratch off labels (like lottery tickets), which are applied to product packaging at the source of manufacture or location of importation. The customer then scratches the label to reveal a hidden item-unique code, and sends the item code via text message (paid for by the product manufacturer) to the Sproxil database, ti which Sproxil immediately replies with an authenticating "yes" or "no".
Launching the service in Nigeria has gained the interest of many big-name manufacturers. Present funding has come from grants such as the Clinton Initiative, Nokia, as well as several business and social enterprise organizations that reward good ideas. Right now, there are one million sachets out on a diabetes medication across the country of Nigeria, and according to pharmacies, customers are beginning to purchase only the packages with the Sproxil label. Piloting the product on this medication, which diabetics rely on daily, is particularly appropriate.
Gogo also discusses the probability of Sproxil's future involvement in other markets struggling with counterfeiting, such as the textiles and education markets, and he asserts that there is "a very general need for authentication in West Africa," and according to a number of other articles, around the world. Sproxil also plans to reach the software market through creative entertainment like the music and movie industries.
Sproxil is the only testable initiative for consumer-based, anti-counterfeit technology right now, partly because of its for-profit approach. There are four potential revenue streams that have been identified:
1) Authentication, where companies pay to protect their brand
2) Advisory, or supply-chain consulting
3) Analytics, or data-mining
Sproxil is already receiving some revenue for its authentication and advisory services. It has not yet expanded to include analytics and advertising in its offerings. Click here listen to this exclusive interview on The World's Tech Podcast.