Solution overview

Our Solution

POKET

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Tagline

Mapping the Emerging Economy, One Merchant at a Time

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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 insights to inform city-planning, public infrastructure and enterprise decisions.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Film your elevator pitch

2
Add a comment

Read comments
Loading…

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. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Who are you serving?

There are three key groups whose lives we will meaningfully improve:


1) Youth Looking for Work/Income: Young people in countries like Nigeria face massive barriers to finding employment, yet are often digital-savvy and literate. We have engaged hundreds of students in field research to understand whether they would use an app on their phone to map places for the sake of earning remuneration, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  

2) Citizens Searching for Businesses: Many citizens in emerging countries have no means of finding where key services like bus stops, pharmacies, corner shops or mobile money agents are. This is because very few of these services exist on a public map open-sourced map, like Google Maps. POKET will enable new forms of local search that simply do not currently exist in these markets. 

3) Small Business Owners and Micro-Entrepreneurs: We just completed an 8-week trip in Lagos to deeply understand 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 map them and also give them the means to start engaging with these key services. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your solution?

POKET has developed an mobile application that leverages blockchain/AI to aggregate the location/GIS data described above at scale using a form of consensus-driven crowdsourcing. 

In a nutshell, we are incentivizing everyday users to either propose or verify that a certain merchant/retailer exists in a certain location. Once the user downloads our app, they start out with 500 "coins" in their wallet. They can "propose" a 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, a small # of their coins will be deducted from the wallet until their proposal has been "verified". If it is verified as accurate, they will receive the coins back, in addition to a small number of additional coins. if their proposal is disputed and comes back as being false or inaccurate, they do not receive their deducted coins back. This consensus and trust schema has been developed to incentivize truth-telling. 

For "verifying", users get a push notification when they walk by a place that has been proposed by another user. They are then prompted to either verify or dispute the 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 themf 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. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Select only the most relevant.

  • Support communities in designing and determining solutions around critical services
  • Create or advance equitable and inclusive economic growth
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Where is your solution team headquartered?

Toronto, ON, Canada
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Our solution's stage of development:

Pilot

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
More about your solution

Select one of the below:

New application of an existing technology

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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:

  1. 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. The algorithms we have developed using ethereum smart contracts are proprietary to POKET and will enable data aggregation at scale.

  2. 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 using a public blockchain we can ensure an immutable, tamper-proof record of places and people that one centralized entity cannot manipulate.

  3. 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.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.

Currently, our product is leveraging blockchain technology in a new and interesting way. We are one of the only startups that are working on creating a proof of location protocol using blockchain, where we are working on developing distributed and decentralized maps and also issuing bounties in the form of micro-transactions to find the data collection. In addition to this, we are also leveraging AI to build training models to better verify and generate insights from images captured from merchants. Our goal is to create deep intelligence around how to understand and decipher images of small shops, tills, hawkers, stands, etc. in these emerging countries, and use them to help inform things like credit-worthiness. 

We are also 1/14 graduates from the Creative Destruction Labs' Blockchain AI program, where we have had mentors like Joshua Gans (Best-Selling AI Author) and William Tunstall Pedoe (Creator of Evi - acquired by Amazon to create Alexa) guide as as we develop our solution. The Creative Destruction Lab is the only academic founding partner of the Libra Association, the recently announced Facebook "cryptocurrency". We are actively engaging in conversations around how CDL and FB can support us in using Libra to issue our bounties, instead of the current blockchain we are using (Ethereum). 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Blockchain
  • Big Data
  • Behavioral Design
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?

Activities:  POKET team has already started seeding early users with the bounty, 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 have mapped 500+ merchants in just a few days and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from early users who want to map more. 

Short-Term Outcomes: 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 2 paid-pilots to collect similar data with 2 large companies.

Long-Term Outcomes: 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 and combined with additional data we are generating will help cities inform key-decision. We know this from early conversations we've had with city-planners, and via personal experience in Canada where government relies on similar data to make key decisions about city-planning and public infrastructure. We are also basing this off learnings from apps like FourSquare and Google Maps with respect to the utility that these provide to consumers in developed markets. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.

  • Women & Girls
  • Rural Residents
  • Peri-Urban Residents
  • Urban Residents
  • Very Poor/Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Canada
  • Nigeria
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Canada
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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) 50 field-researchers who are using the app to map and earn 


in 1-Year (post-launch):

a) roughly 25,000 merchants 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) 200,000 users who are using the app to map and earn 


Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

1-Year KPIs:

a) roughly 25,000 merchants in Lagos mapped

b) 1000 users who are using the app to map and earn 

c) 3 paid engagements @ 5K USD each = 15K (we have already secured 2

Overall, our 3-5 year ambitions are: 

1) empower 1-million young people to earn money with new forms of work on 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)




Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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, we are hoping to raise more money to fund the development of a more robust product to launch across all of Nigeria in 6-months. It would be great if MIT Solve can help contribute to this endeavor in any way. 

2) Technical: We have used the ethereum blockchain for our product but after our pilot in Nigeria, it became clear that the technology is still very much in its nascence and ready to scale as fast as we intend to. 

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. 

2
Add a comment

Read comments
Loading…

How are you planning to overcome these barriers?

1) Financial: We have recently opened 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) Technical: As mentioned, we are starting conversations with the Libra foundation and have begun testing using their open-source code - we anticipate this may be a more scalable approach to issuing bounties and conducting micro-transactions. Alternatively, we have already started exploring moving to a centralized server for collecting data and writing it on a decentralized blockchain when the technology develops more. 

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 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.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.poket

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
About your team

Select an option below:

For-Profit

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.

N/A

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How many people work on your solution team?

2 Full-Time

1 Part-Time 

1 Contractors

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

For how many years have you been working on your solution?

1

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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. Competed in ACM Programming Competitions, Robotics projects and Android development. James has worked as a software developer at several blockchain startups, shipping new, innovative products for global MNCs. Nigerian by background, James also has inroads into a client-base back home.

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) in 2016. 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.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Your business model & funding

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 are currently in the midst of conducting 2 paid-pilots in the CPG and pharma verticals with interest from many more. 



2
Add a comment

Read comments
Loading…

What is your path to financial sustainability?

Currently we are using investment capital to fund our early work, but in a few short weeks started undergoing paid pilot discussions. 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. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Partnership potential

Why are you applying to Solve?

The POKET team often feels that we are at a disadvantage working on this exciting start-up in Toronto. There are next to no impact-driven organizations in Canada that support innovations working in emerging countries like Nigeria. The accelerator program that we were part of is very capital-drive, and although we were successful through the 10-month program, we received very little mentorship or guidance around some of our key assumptions for impact metrics and theory of change. 

For these reasons, we have a poor network of global innovators and change-makers that we are really hoping SOLVE can help us foster. We understand that there is funding associated with being selected, and we are very much excited by this opportunity, however more important to us is the introductions and mentoship we can receive from other social entrepreneurs who have launched digital products in emerging countries, spent time in the field and understand this unique landscape of small retailers we are so deeply working with. 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 SOLVE's global network of innovators! 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?

  • Business model
  • Technology
  • Distribution
  • Funding and revenue model
  • Talent or board members
  • Legal
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Media and speaking opportunities
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?

1) Micro-finance Banks and Organizations - Ex. Kiva - These may be interested in the data we are generating since we are creating insights that can help inform credit-worthiness about small businesses

2) Financial Inclusion Organizations - Ex. Women's World Bank, MasterCard Foundation - It is key for us to also engage with financial inclusion organizations as we are creating new forms of work for people which they can access once they get access to a form of mobile/digital banking

3) Mobile Money Agencies - Ex. Paga, Visa, local banks - Will be interested in how our data can help them better understand areas of low penetration to increase financial inclusion via new agents 

4) Local Universities - Ex. University of Lagos - Which can help us find campus ambassadors, hold activation events, build trust among young people and help us garner adoption when we launch 

5) UN SDGs/Impact Organizations and Investors - Our work aligns with key SDG goals such as economic empowerment, industry, innovation and infrastructure and gender equality 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.

We are leveraging AI in a very unique way - we are training models to help decipher contents of an image that has never been explored deeply before, which are small merchants in emerging economies. By using OCR and image recognition in these low-income areas and parts of the world, we hope to develop AI that deeply understands the content, scale, size and potential of a merchant by combining the data we extract from a photo of a merchant with hundreds of different data points. Our hope is that this powerful algorithm can help provide insights to banks, enterprise and governments to help provide financing and financial resources to SME owners and micro-entrepreneurs in these areas who, until now, have great difficulty to qualify. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

Our solution hits the nail on the head with respect to each of these three key points:

1) "Support communities to participate meaningfully in designing and determining solutions around critical services including housing and transportation" - We are literally mapping entire communities, using the community. By taking a crowd-sourced approach to collecting this data, we are no longer relying on large tech companies to centralize the collection of this data but instead, are curating it using the community's insights and inputs.

2) "Create or advance equitable and inclusive economic growth across geographies and demographics" - We are democratizing and disrupting the conventional definition of "work". Any person, as long as they have an internet enabled smartphone, can now start to earn money using just their smartphone. 

3) "Ensure all citizens can overcome barriers to civic participation and inclusion, including expanding access to information, internet, digital literacy, and services." - We are generating and open-sourcing what we believe should be a universal public utility and right: a map of places! This allows powerful new forms of local search, discoverability and insights that simply have never existed in some of these countries until now. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

“If you’re a woman living in Uganda, Namibia, Ghana, or Nigeria (Africa’s largest economy), you are three times more likely than your husband, son, or brother to run a business.” - Fortune, 2015

Women across Africa heavily overindex men with respect to participation in small business and entrepreneurship, specifically among the small businesses we are targeting. Unfortunately, they are also the most underserved with respect to financial inclusion and being able to access mico-finance to grow their business. POKET's identity lies in being a technology-focused project that advances the needs of women and girls, as we give them a proof of existence and the basic infrastructure they need to join the internet age and start engaging in key products and services that will empower them economically! 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

N/A

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.

We are interested in applying to this prize, however are not based in and do not operate in the US :( 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

Our solution hits the nail on the head with respect to each of these three key points:

1) "Support communities to participate meaningfully in designing and determining solutions around critical services including housing and transportation" - We are literally mapping entire communities, using the community. By taking a crowd-sourced approach to collecting this data, we are no longer relying on large tech companies to centralize the collection of this data but instead, are curating it using the community's insights and inputs.

2) "Create or advance equitable and inclusive economic growth across geographies and demographics" - We are democratizing and disrupting the conventional definition of "work". Any person, as long as they have an internet enabled smartphone, can now start to earn money using just their smartphone. 

3) "Ensure all citizens can overcome barriers to civic participation and inclusion, including expanding access to information, internet, digital literacy, and services." - We are generating and open-sourcing what we believe should be a universal public utility and right: a map of places! This allows powerful new forms of local search, discoverability and insights that simply have never existed in some of these countries until now. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

If you would like to apply for the Everytown for Gun Safety Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.

N/A

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Solution Team

Back
to Top