Cleaning up the counterfeit market

Chekkit is a product authentication company based in Nigeria. It was founded in 2018 by Dare Odumade. This week we caught up with him to learn more.

What challenge does Chekkit solve?

Chekkit was invented to solve the menace and deaths that counterfeit medications and consumables cause our continent and other developing nations across the world. 

In addition, we have also been solving other related challenges like consumer data acquisition, bridging the gap between producers and consumers, as well as helping to make daunting pharmaceutical supply chains transparent.

What‘s the story behind the company?

After founding the business in 2018, I needed really smart guys to help build the amazing company I had dreamt of building - so I brought in Tosin Adelowo and Samuel Uhkueleigbe to make this happen.

The company started after I’d experienced what falsified drugs can do to us. A friend witnessed a patient die in a clinic she was working at in Ghana, because they had a ruptured kidney resulting from taking counterfeit antimalarial medicine

I felt terrified and saw a key purpose for my innovative abilities. My team and I researched the market briefly in Accra and quickly discovered that consumers are not concerned with the presence of counterfeits nor the danger posed. Until the effects of the active ingredients in the falsified medicines builds up in the system it can go undetected. 

We then decided to develop an authentication system powered by sticker labels that verifies medicines using encrypted codes over a USSD dial and QR scan. We aggregate and process surveys through consumers who answer questions during the authentication process and in exchange receive a reward. 

Today, in Nigeria we give 100 Naira airtime to consumers after they verify 5 products with Chekkit labels and answer the survey questions.

What were you doing before founding the company?

I was in a software entrepreneurship training program in Ghana, called MEST. I worked on several projects that year before deciding to stick with Chekkit.

However, before the program I had started two software businesses. The first was in my sophomore year at the University of Ibadan where I developed a co-learning social network with a friend in which thousands of students signed up.

I then developed a social music streaming messenger which attracted offers from three major global record labels to sign track streaming licenses but ended up failing due to cash burnout.

How did you get Chekkit off the ground?

Chekkit launched via the MEST incubator in late 2018 when I moved back to Lagos, Nigeria. We closed our first deal later that year around 3 months after launch with founder capital. 

We started fundraising afterwards from the Facebook Accelerator in Lagos, as well as via Merck Global Accelerator and Google for Startup Accelerator.

From product authentication and real-time consumer insights, we began to provide complementary services such as on-package codes for online and offline consumer engagements and consumer retargeting services (by sending personalized periodic messages to target consumer groups).

How much money have you raised so far?

$120K in grants and $500K in pre-seed capital.

What went into building the early stage product?

Fortunately, I had taught myself basic skills in coding with Javascript, User Experience design thinking and User Interface design so it was fairly easy for me to bring an MVP to market.

I designed the rough platform architecture for mobile, USSD and platform flows as well as the User Interface of the first iteration of our consumer intelligence platform. I then took a clickable version to a client and closed our first deal thereafter.

I hired our first full-stack engineer who built the product into further iterations. We also crafted the solution in-line with existing policies and required regulatory standards.

What’s your tech stack?

Angular, React, Javascript, Nodejs and Mysql. We also leverage Blockchain, Machine Learning and other specific integrations.

Where do you currently operate?

We currently operate in Nigeria and Afghanistan. We will be expanding along west and east Africa to countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Uganda.

We are also expanding our service to cover real-time RFID/NFC tracking with sensors for cold-chain traceability.

What’s the existing startup landscape like in Nigeria?

The Nigerian startup landscape is predominantly characterized by fintech, healthtech, logistics and supply chain management businesses.

Over the past decade the region has experienced a mega shift in the amount of investments available to help startups grow and these investments have began to pay off with several major exits.

However, this is only the beginning as the growth margin here is much higher than its contemporary ecosystems in Europe or the USA. These developed markets are saturated in comparison to African markets where there is still plenty of room for smartphone and internet penetration to grow into the future.

A lot of technological infrastructure would need to be developed to improve basic processes within the region which would directly affect GDP growth and per capita economic growth, and the creation of job opportunities for the young generation which make up the largest segment of Nigerian society.

What’s your business model?

We combine an annual software license fee with a pay-as-you-go model per sticker label or consumer group reached.

We actively help our partners to increase consumer engagement rates and advise on best practices to gain more product insights across their supply chain.

Producers/Brands pay these fees to leverage our services and Chekkit liaises directly with the marketing team and/or supply chain team as needed.

Chekkit is positioned as a complementary ERP solution, tracking activities from warehouse to final consumer as well as collecting information on the farm supply end. 

Chekkit was recently selected as one of 15 companies to join Google’s Startup Accelerator for Africa. Can you tell us more about the application process?

Well, we had applied twice for the GFSA previously before finally getting selected this time. Third time lucky!

From application to interview and getting selected took less than a month. This time we had greater clarity on our value proposition which was a Machine Learning solution we are developing - we will be enabling camera phones to easily recognise counterfeit product packaging by taking pictures.

What company do you look to for inspiration and why?

Chronicled because of their persuasive use of blockchain technology and hardware components. Also, their foresight for a supply chain ledger. In the formative days of Chekkit we learnt a lot from their business model but made ours more original for our target market - Africa and the Middle East.

What are your views on the African tech ecosystem?

It’s growing steadily to what the US tech ecosystem was about two decades ago. Because there is constant exchange of information between both markets and even the Asian tech ecosystem, Africa’s tech ecosystem will see exponential growth in a very short time. 

Three years ago startups in Africa would typically raise around $1 million in seed funding. Today it’s quite common to raise $5-10m in seed capital as there are now more investors and more exits in the ecosystem in just 3 years.

In the news 🚀

🇿🇦 South African fintech juggernaut Yoco has secured $83 million in Series C funding to scale its financial ecosystem for small businesses.

🇨🇮 Ivorian fintech Julaya raises $2m to digitise business payments in West Africa.

💰 There is a new VC in town. Nigerian angel investor Olumide Soyombo has upped the ante and launched his own VC firm, Voltron Capital.

🇪🇬 Egyptian online household shopping service GoodsMart has raised $3.6 million to accelerate market expansion.