POKET: Crowdsourced Mapping & Retail Insights of Merchants
Mapping the Emerging Economy, One Merchant at a Time
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). 1.3M+ of them in Bangladesh. Micro-merchants 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) POKET will be able to create new forms of work for the marginalized and unemployed in Bangladesh by paying them bounties to map merchants. In doing so, we will generate free advertising for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs by mapping them, and create insights to inform city-planning, public infrastructure and enterprise decisions.
Film your elevator pitch
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 Bangladesh, there are millions of small corner shops and micro-merchants 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, but one that is extremely prevalent in Bangladesh with an estimated 1.3M+ micro-merchants offline and unmapped.
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 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 mobile-money companies, FMCGs, etc.) don't have fresh retail insights necessary to drive key decisions in their business.
Who are you serving?
1) Youth Looking for Work/Income: Young people in countries like Bangladesh face massive barriers to finding employment, yet are often digital-savvy and literate. We have engaged hundreds of students in Lagos, Nigeria 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 recently completed a pilot in Lagos to deeply understand the painpoints of this demographic. By being unmapped and undocumented, small 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.
What is your solution?
POKET has developed an mobile application that aggregates the location/GIS data described above at scale using a form of consensus-driven crowdsourcing. View an explanatory demo here:
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 them for mobile money or phone credits. 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 using an enterprise portal we have built.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Toronto, ON, Canada
In which sector would you categorize your solution?
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
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. The algorithms we have developed, initially using smart contracts, are proprietary to POKET and will enable data aggregation at scale.
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. We hope to expose this data publicly to create an immutable, tamper-proof record of places and people that one centralized entity cannot manipulate.
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.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
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
a) roughly 25,000 merchants in Dhaka mapped
b) 1000 users who are using the app to map and earn
in 5-Years (in 10 cities, after fundraising rounds)
a) roughly 1,000,000 merchants in 10 cities mapped
b) 200,000 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 25,000 merchants in Dhaka mapped
b) 1000 users who are using the app to map and earn
c) $50K USD in revenue (we are close to hitting the $25K USD revenue mark)
Overall, our 3-5 year ambitions are:
1) empower 25K young people in Bangladesh to earn money with new forms of work on their smartphone
2) allow 1-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 successfully completed a pilot in Lagos, we are hoping to raise more money to fund the development of a more robust product to launch across Bangladesh. It would be great if the Tiger Prize 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 was a large challenge. People are generally skeptical to download new applications on their phones that already have limited space and tech specs. We are interested in how this may differ in Bangladesh.
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. Bangladesh is reflective of this trend.
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: 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. This was crucial for us to complete our pilot successfully.
3) Cultural: In Nigeria, we 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 Bangladesh. Local support and partners will be crucial, which we are hoping the Tiger Prize can help connect us with.
4) Market Barriers: Smartphone penetration is suggested to double in Bangladesh between 2017 and 2025 from 31% to 75% (GSMA, 2018), where millions of new internet users are being onboarded 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. Bangladesh is a very exciting market for this reason.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Bangladesh?
We have summarized the key verticals and their needs that POKET can help answer in Bangladesh. https://imgur.com/9rNLtFt
We have already taken early steps and engaged with one enterprise in the financial inclusion space in Bangladesh. BRAC/B-Kash has expressed early interest in using our platform and location data to better understand the spread and distribution of micro-merchant to better penetrate underserved areas and increase financial inclusion.
Select an option below:For-profit
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 Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto, and has held various technical roles across several industries. 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. We were also selected as MIT "SOLVERS" for 2019.
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 - We were selected as 1/8 SOLVERS by MIT in New York this year in the category of "Community Driven Innovations"
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 receiving small payments for mapping merchants in their communities using the POKET app on their smartphones. In doing so, we are creating new forms of work for young 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 recently conducted a paid-pilot with a global pharmaceutical who is now signing on for a larger study.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Currently we are using investment capital to fund our early work, and within a few months have started generating revenue. We charge enterprise, NGO, and impact client on a per-outlet basis. This can range from $5-$20 per outlet. The data we provide to the client includes: merchant name, photo, contact information, nearest street address, latitude longitude, and one custom insight that is highly valuable to them. Depending on pricing, we also provide a custom portal that allows the client to interact with the data on a map and also a report of the study.
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.
Why are you applying to the Tiger Challenge?
Our team has been exploring an expansion to Bangladesh for a few months now, before we even received word of the Tiger Prize. As we mentioned, we engaged BRAC/B-Kash a short while ago who have expressed early interest in our solution. Receiving the opportunity to visit Dhaka, present and compete for resources that the Tiger Prize has to offer will drastically accelerate our journey. We already have a product that is ready to launch in Bangladesh, but require a network of local support, strategic partners and clients who find value in our solution. The Tiger Prize will help us in acquiring all three of these things faster than we could have on our own. As all teams are applying are excited for the funding opportunity, however we are adamant that a large portion of any funds/prizes we receive will go towards hiring locals and mapping Bangladesh, starting with beautiful Dhaka!
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
We are seeking prospective clients for our solution in Bangladesh.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Impact & NGO:
Any NGO focused on Youth Unemployment, Field Research for Micro-Merchants and Financial Inclusion
Doctors Without Borders
Pharmaceuticals: Generating Pharmaceutical Insights
Opsonin Pharma Limited
The ACME Laboratories Ltd
Consumer Goods: Generating Retail Insights
Adamjee Jute Mills
Kazi Farms Group
Financial Inclusion: Generating Mobile Money Insights
Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL)