Sproxil has been a bit of a darling of tech business plan competitions in the last six months. We first heard about the company, which started in Somerville, MA, and has developed technology to intercept medicine counterfeiters in developing nations, when it won IBM’s SmartCamp competition in June, taking home 12 weeks of mentoring from Big Blue and coaching from TechStars.
The startup, founded in 2009, went on to the global version of the competition in Dublin last November, where it nabbed an honorable mention, chief financial officer Alden Zecha told me. It also made it to the final set of 26 companies in the inaugural MassChallenge competition, and took away $10,000 for the people’s choice award at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last month.
Sproxil’s mobile product authentication technology aims to help consumers spot the fake versions of medications they’re about to buy, a rampant problem in developing nations. It provides pharma customers with product packaging codes, which prospective customers text to Sproxil. The company then confirms the validity of the medicine with a product description if it’s the real thing or with a warning message if the code doesn’t match up. It launched its pilot program in Nigeria last February with Biofem, Merck KGaA’s sole distributor in the country.
Now, less than a year later, it’s about to roll out its service with more of the globe’s five big pharma companies, and is expanding to a few more developing nations in Africa. The company isn’t yet ready to announce either its partner companies or new markets, as the product is still being finalized and it doesn’t want to give potential counterfeiters the heads up on which companies to target. Zecha says, though, that we can expect to get specifics in the next one to two months.
The company has become a go-to name in medication authentication in Nigeria, Zecha says. He can tell because the Sproxil customer service reps abroad have gotten calls from consumers concerned over the fact that a medication they’re about to buy is missing a code, flagging the fact that it’s counterfeit. “We sent inspectors who took appropriate action regarding the counterfeit product,” he says.
“Clearly consumers are aware of our solution and of the service we are providing,” Zecha says. “We’re definitely the market leader in this space and plan to stay the market leader as we expand.
Sproxil, which has operated off of founder money and prize winnings to date, has also “been out there pounding the pavement looking for investment funding,” Zecha says. If the Series A money comes in, it would like to add to its eight-person team, particularly in sales and marketing, developing, and customer service roles, he says. Sproxil, which has been enjoying the fruits of free office space from MassChallenge, is also looking for permanent space in the Boston area.