Acumen Blog

100_0804

Acumen Fund Invests in Sproxil, Inc. to Combat Counterfeit Medicine Using Mobile Technology

Investment Will Help Sproxil Build Sales Teams, Expand into India and Kenya, and Make Improvements to the Technology

Photo courtesy of Sproxil

New York, NY, USA, March 22, 2011 – Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture fund addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, today announced an investment in Sproxil, Inc., a company that provides a Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™) solution that enables consumers to verify that the pharmaceutical product they are buying is genuine. The $1.8 million investment aims to help Sproxil to build its sales teams in the U.S. and Nigeria; to begin Sproxil’s expansion into India and Kenya; and to provide further improvements to the technology.

“With a decade of experience, Acumen Fund continues to invest in innovative businesses that have the potential to improve millions of lives and revolutionize emerging industries,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen Fund. “Sproxil will help combat the multi-billion dollar counterfeit drug market, empower customers and give them the resources to make informed pharmaceutical purchasing decisions. We will also gain key insights into the dynamics and possibilities of mobile technology, an increasingly critical tool for improving the lives of billions in the developing world, which we can then share with the community at large.”

In 2008 Dr. Ashifi Gogo, a Holekamp Family Ph.D. Innovation Fellow at Dartmouth College who grew up in Ghana, founded Sproxil. He incorporated the company in 2009 with the mission to make it harder for pharmaceutical counterfeiters to operate. Counterfeit products pose a serious threat to public health and safety worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 30% of drugs sold in developing nations are counterfeit with the counterfeit drug market estimated at $200 billion by the World Customs Organization (WCO). In addition, up to 50% of some medicines in specific developing countries, including Ghana and Pakistan, are substandard. These substandard drugs – which do not have the correct potency of the legitimate drug – have led to a significant healthcare crisis both in terms of number of deaths (700,000 deaths from fake malaria and TB drugs alone) and increased drug resistance in treating diseases, which will become an issue in the longer term. In Ghana alone, local authorities working with the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) discovered fake and substandard versions of thirteen vital anti-malarial drugs spread across multiple locations in the country.

With the counterfeit drug market on the rise in Africa, we felt the need to develop a simple, efficient and cost-effective way for customers to verify the authenticity of medication prior to purchasing them. Given the prevalence of mobile technology throughout the world, it made sense to use a technology that was already in every customer’s pocket,” said Dr. Ashifi Gogo, co-Founder and CEO, Sproxil, Inc. “Acumen Fund’s investment will allow us to expand our business into additional countries and improve our technology, and we look forward to working closely with them in the next phase of our growth.”

Sproxil’s MPA solution allows consumers to verify that the product they are buying is genuine by using a mobile phone and a simple, free text message. Sproxil uses a scratch card method, similar to that used for replenishing cellular talk-time, to allow users to reveal a one-time-use code on drugs and text the code to a “911 for fake drugs” number which is identical on all cellular networks within a country. A response is dispatched from Sproxil’s servers, indicating whether the drug is genuine or fake. If a fake product is found, a consumer is given a hotline number to call in order to report the fake product. The hotline is a Sproxil call center that currently reports the fake product to the Nigerian Agency for Food, Drug and Administrative Control (NAFDAC) for further investigation. In other countries, the counterfeit product is reported to the appropriate authorities.

Sproxil capitalizes on technologies that already exist and are readily accessible and easily understood by all levels of society – namely cellular phone SMS capabilities and scratch-off lottery-style labels. By doing so, it provides a user-friendly solution to consumers that requires minimal education and training to use.

To date, Sproxil has already sold more than 5M anti-counterfeit labels in Nigeria and has set up the first national mobile-based anti-counterfeit service in Africa, beginning in Nigeria with a partnership with the NAFDAC. Their customers include both local companies as well as global pharmaceutical companies such as GSK and Johnson & Johnson.

More about Sproxil, Inc.

Sproxil, Inc., a privately backed organization, provides world-class brand protection for emerging markets through software and services that work anywhere there are mobile phones. Simple, easy to use and with no consumer capital investment, Sproxil offers a comprehensive anti-counterfeiting strategy for cash-based societies. Delivering automatic protection, simple labels and robust back-end analytics with its Mobile Product AuthenticationTM (MPA™) solution, Sproxil enables consumers to text message an item-unique code for a rapid response that confirms a brand’s genuineness. Our solution also helps companies connect directly to their consumers through customized text message responses – such as disease management tips – and ads that specifically target those demographics with known buying behaviors. Learn more at www.sproxil.com.

Also view this press release at PR Web.

Comments

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]

DE-BUNKING THE BURDEN MYTH: IMPACT DATA GOES LEAN

Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]

Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY! [Read More]

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]