POKET: Creating New Digital Work for Mapping the City
Map the City, Get Rewarded
Pitch us on your solution
1) There are estimated to be more than 1 billion undocumented merchants on earth. 90%+ of them lie in emerging economies (CityLab, 2016). This means small retailers and SMEs are largely unmapped in these countries - they don’t exist on a Google Maps or Yelp. This poses key challenges for discoverability, visibility, city-planning and enterprises requiring retail insights and maps for these places.
2) Our solution is an Android application that incentivizes regular users to map their communities. In doing so, POKET is creating a crowd-sourced, consensus-driven registry of new unmapped merchants in the emerging world.
3) If scaled globally, POKET will be able to create new forms of work for the marginalized and unemployed in the bottom of the pyramid, generate free advertising for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs by mapping them, and create much-needed data to inform city-planning, public infrastructure and enterprise decisions.
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What is the problem you are solving?
In the West, we mostly have large big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon that comprise the retail landscape. In emerging countries like Nigeria, Pakistan and Philippines, there are millions of small corner shops and SMEs instead - no/few big-box retailers. Unfortunately, we know very little about these merchants, since they're offline, cash-based, undocumented, and most importanty, unmapped - they don’t exist on a Google Maps or Yelp. This is a global problem - there are estimated to be more than 1 billion undocumented merchants on earth, where 90%+ of them lie in emerging economies (CityLab, 2016).
With the majority of these merchants unmapped, it means that cities don't have the data they need to help inform where to build the next bus stop, hospital, bank, mobile money agent, school. etc. It also means that these micro-entrepreneurs (mostly women across the African continent) and SMEs don't have a way of being discovered outside of their immediate communities. They are unmapped, and have no form of digital advertising to attract more foot traffic to their businesses. It also means enterprises (like delivery companies, consumer goods firms, etc.) don't have the retail insights necessary to drive key decisions in their business.
Who are you serving?
1) Youth Seeking Work/Income: 30% of African Youth are unemployed (ILO, 2019). Young people in countries like Nigeria face massive barriers to finding employment, yet are often digital-savvy and literate. We have engaged hundreds of young people in Lagos to map using their Android phones, and have been paid for this new form of task-based work. We have even created an in-app tutorial for digital skills training, and the results are overwhelmingly positive.
2) Citizens Searching for Businesses: Many citizens in emerging countries have no means of finding where key services like pharmacies are. This is because very few of these services exist on a public map. POKET will enable new forms of local search that simply do not currently exist in these markets for the informal sector.
3) Small Business Owners and Micro-Entrepreneurs: We are currently in Lagos deeply understanding the painpoints of this demographic. By being unmapped and undocumented, these business owners don't have the tools or papers needed to qualify for micro-financing, advertise their business or showcase their offerings. Our app will create their very first digital identity and bring them on for the very first time, giving them the means to start engaging with key services.
What is your solution?
POKET has developed a mobile application, engineered specifically for low-cost Android devices in emerging markets. It uses a brief tutorial to illustrate how users can use their phones to map places/conduct field research. Once users understand how the app works, it allows users to earn money for collecting the location/GIS data described above at scale using a form of consensus-driven crowdsourcing.
In a nutshell, we are paying young people to map and verify that a certain merchant/retailer exists in a certain location. They can "submit" a particular merchant by taking its photo, categorizing the types of items it sells, providing its name/contact info and of course its location. Once they do, their submission is reviewed for accuracy. If their submission is deemed accurate, they receive a small payment for their work. If their proposal is disputed and comes back as being false or inaccurate, they do not receive this payment. We have created a trust schema has been developed to incentivize truth-telling.
For "verifying", users are prompted to either verify or dispute another user's proposal, also for a reward. This is similar to how the traffic app Waze works to keep traffic updates relevant on their platform. Once the user accumulates 1000 coins in their wallet, they can redeem them or a mobile prepaid phone card. The video attached in this application illustrates this entire concept in one-minute.
By doing this exercise, we are creating a global map of merchants and retailers that were previously unknown/undiscoverable at scale. We can then take this data and use it to help inform public infrastructure decisions, city-planning, and also help enterprises make more intelligent decisions in their businesses, our key revenue model. Most importantly, this new business model allows young people to learn new digital skills and get paid for implementing them. In our pilot, users who mapped earned almost 2.3x the average daily wage of Nigeria.
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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Toronto, ON, Canada
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our unique approach to data aggregation Is a key differentiator in our solution on account of the following three features:
Consensus Mechanism: We have gone through a rigorous exercise under Professor Joshua Gans’ mentorship to create a gamified, incentivization algorithm that encourages the ongoing proposal/verification of points of interest (POIs). It makes the generation of a quality registry of POIs the most logical objective for someone whose only goal is to profit financially. This minimizes the reliance on people acting altruistically, and isolates bad actors to ensure accurate collection.
Use of Crowdsourcing: Most existing data aggregation occurs through paying enumerators exorbitant amount of money to collect data every few years, through centralized means. Instead, we are incentivizing everyday users to crowdsource this data, similar to how Waze relies on proposals/verifications of traffic updates from drivers in a community. By curating this data on a public platform and making the places mapped attached to the people who mapped them, we are creating a new type of community-driven platform that we have not seen in the market before.
Proprietary Dataset: We are creating new forms of data and intelligence around previously undiscovered, offline places. Although some countries have a basic idea of some of these places, the current data is extremely unreliable and shallow. In our pilot, 57% of the data we generated did not exist on Google maps of any existing platform.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Activities: POKET team has already started seeding early users with a "bounty" (the word we use for tasks), which has encouraged them to download the application and start mapping merchants in their areas as described in previous questions and in the attached video.
Outputs: Young people are now engaged in a new form of work and are earning small bounties in a way that they could not earn money before. Merchants are also being mapped for the first time. We already mapped 500+ merchants in just a few days and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from early users who want to map more.
Short-Term Outcomes: Young people have been paid 2.3x the average Nigerian wage using our platform. Merchants and business owners are starting to realize the value of being mapped and online. We have also proven that the data is valuable to enterprise, given we secured a paid-pilot to collect this data by the national distributor of a top 5 global pharma company.
Long-Term Outcomes: Create additional forms of task-based work such as more mapping/data-collection, geo-tagging, phone # verification, etc. In addition, being mapped allows merchants to acquire new customers, increase sales for their products/services, advertising digitally for the first time and qualify for micro-finance to further grow their business. The data, when aggregated with additional data we are generating will help cities inform key-decision. We are also basing this off learnings from apps like FourSquare and Google Maps that provides similar products to consumers in developed markets.
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Current # of People Being Served (small, controlled, test pilot):
a) roughly 500 merchants in Lagos which are now mapped
b) 100 field-researchers who are using the app to map and earn
in 1-Year (post-launch):
a) roughly 15,000 merchants (healthcare sector) in Lagos mapped
b) 1000 users who are using the app to map and earn
in 5-Years (in 10 cities, after fundraising rounds)
a) roughly 5,000,000 merchants in 10 cities mapped
b) 250,000 users who are using the app to map and earn
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
a) roughly 15,000 merchants in Lagos mapped
b) 1000 users who are using the app to map and earn
c) Revenue of $100,000 USD (we have already secured our first client and are negotiating an extended contract with them valued at approx $25K)
Overall, our 3-5 year ambitions are:
1) empower 1-million young people to earn money with new forms of work using just their smartphone
2) allow 5-million SMEs in the 10-cities we select to be fully mapped, discoverable and searchable by their communities
3) create a SaaS platform where any enterprise can issue bounties to people in their communities to complete micro-tasks (like mapping and uncovering retail insights)
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
1) Financial: Now that we have completed the development of a prototype and piloted it in Lagos, and gotten a paid client, we are hoping to scale this innovation. Access to greater financial services will allow us to fund the development of a robust product to launch across Lagos and a second city later this year. The funding from ServiceNow would be a massive help in achieving this mission.
2) Local Partners: We are eagerly looking for more local partners that could help us engage and access unemployed youth, starting with Lagos, Nigeria. We are actively hoping to connect with more NGOs and organizations who can help mobilize many young people who would benefit from this form of work.
3) Cultural: In our pilot country (Nigeria) trust is a large challenge. People are generally skeptical to download new applications on their phones that already have limited space and tech specs.
4) Market Barriers: In many of the cities and countries we are interested, smartphone and internet adoption are still too low for us to scale. Internet speeds and hardware specs are also a little less developed than we would prefer.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
1) Financial: In Q3 2020, we are opening a round of financing to fund the next 24-months of our operations. We are actively exploring grant opportunities in the impact domain since our product has immense social benefit to multiple stakeholders within the communities of the cities we are working in.
2) Local Partners: As mentioned, we are starting conversations with universities in Lagos and have already struck a partnership with the University of Lagos (Geography Department). We will see how we can scale this across other campuses.
3) Cultural: We have started adopting local tactics and engaging with young people on campuses, military service centres, social events to build brand equity and encourage adoption. We are also exploring the use of campus ambassador and influencer marketing in these countries and understanding what the best set of steps are to emulate this adoption journey in several markets.
4) Market Barriers: Smartphone penetration is suggested to double in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2018 and 2025 from 37% to 74%, and we are already seeing countries like Pakistan and Nigeria adding 15-25 million new internet users annually, almost all via smartphone. We've also now seen smartphones release this year that cost $45 USD and have all of the specs we need to deliver our solution with high-precision GPS accuracy.
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How many people work on your solution team?
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Kamil (CEO): BBA from Schulich (YorkU), Kamil led the location data monetization efforts at TELUS by creating partnerships/revenue opportunities with enterprise clients - an extremely relevant skillset for POKET. He also spent 6 months working in channel/trade insights at Coca-Cola Pakistan, launched an m-health social enterprise alongside Facebook's Internet.org initiative and raised impact investment. Kamil has also completed 5 business accelerator programs in Israel, Singapore, Pakistan and Toronto.
Naba (CTO): vocal advocate for women in STEM, completed both Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto, and has held various technical roles across several industries. Some of these include the IBM Watson AI team and RBC Cyber Security Team. She is also a blockchain instructor at The BlockchainHub where she teaches courses on the Hyperledger Fabric.
James: James co-leads the software development efforts, as an engineering grad YorkU. James has worked as a software developer at several blockchain startups, shipping new, innovative products for global MNCs. Nigerian by background, he has been selected as 1/25 founders across Africa to present at NEF hosted by the president of Kenya in March 2020.
Naba and James were both recipients of the Top 30 Under 30 Developer Award for Canada in 2018. Kamil was selected as 1/7 Global Innovators Under 30 by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) and MIT SOLVE in 2019. Most importantly, the team’s diverse backgrounds and experiences have equipped us with deep understanding of how to build/launch products for the emerging world.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
1) Trade Commission Service of Canada - POKET is a TCS Client and therefore works with Global Affairs Canada in exploring new clients and areas of expansion for our application.
2) Creative Destruction Lab/University of Toronto - World's leading AI accelerator, CDL is also the only academic founding partner of Facebook's Libra Association
3) Ryerson Social Venture Zone - Supports Canadian social entrepreneurs
4) CCHub Nigeria - A co-working space in Lagos focused on innovation and adoption of new technology
5) MIT SOLVE - Has given us financial and in-kind resources for legal work, media opportunities, relevant connections on the ground, and several more opportunities.
6) University of Lagos - to help engage young people in Lagos.
What is your business model?
What is your business model?
Our business model is simply is to generate location data using crowdsourcing and then monetize/license/resell it at a profit to enterprise clients. The following are the customers/beneficiaries:
1) Regular users looking for new forms of work: These smarphone users are getting paid a small bounty for mapping merchants in their communities using the POKET app on their smartphones. In doing so, we are creating new forms of work for people that were not possible until now.
2) Small Retailers/Merchants/Micro-Entrepreneurs: These SME retailers/independent mom & pop shops now benefit from being mapped, which means greater visibility, free advertising, more foot traffic and ultimately more sales in their stores
3) Enterprise Clients (POKET's Customers): Companies in the consumer packaged goods industry, banks, mobile money companies, logistics and delivery companies, pharmaceuticals, etc. benefit from greater retail insights about where their products are, where their competitors' products are, price points, and areas of high/low brand penetration. We have already signed the exclusive Nigerian distributor for one of the largest pharma/medical device companies in the world.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Currently we are using investment capital and grants to fund our work. Although we have started generating early-revenue, our long-term ambition is to create a SaaS platform that enterprises can use to access location data for emerging countries and also issue their own bounties. This is similar to the model we saw FourSquare pursue, however our focus is in emerging economies where there is a substantial gap in retail insights and location intelligence. Our business also have very favourable unit economics, where we maintain a 90% margin on enterprise insights that we charge between $5-$10 USD for.
Why are you applying to the Digital Workforce Challenge?
The POKET team is working on a challenge that is very aligned with ServiceNow's mandate for this competition - digital skills and the future of work, particularly for youth in Africa. There are a few things we believe will really benefit us if we were to win the competition:
1) Technical expertise and resources for further developing our product, specifically for the emerging world
2) Funding that will enable us to scale and grow our innovation to more communities, starting with Lagos, Nigeria.
3) Access to clients, partner organizations and inroads to people that ServiceNow works with across the globe
We hope these inroads lead to technical mentoship, deeper understanding of key markets, additional funding opportunities and new partnerships that we would not be able to access if it were not for this exciting prize opportunity!
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Aside from organizations focused on youth unemployment and digital skills in Africa, some other intros we would really appreciate are:
- Pharma/FMCG manufacturers/brands
- Pharma/FMCG distributors
- Medical Equipment brands/distributors
- Digital Solutions Providers (ex. drug procurement platforms)
- Any other organization who may benefit from a map/registry of pharmas/hospitals and particular insights in emerging cities
- Kamil Shafiq Co-Founder and CEO, POKET