Five years ago, I made an important decision. After a very intensive time in a company that I co-founded, I took a year off and dedicated it to my family. During this time, the kids started taking an active interest in environmental issues. I realized that I wanted to do something that would benefit my children but also have a positive influence environmentally. I wanted solutions to the big problems that my generation and the generations before me have left for our children, solutions to problems like obesity, diabetes, pollution of our waters, deforestation, and global warming.
At that time, I decided to become part of CodeCheck, which had been founded a few years earlier by Roman Bleichenbacher and was already running successfully. My children are now 13 and 14 years old — real teenagers with all the trimmings. They use CodeCheck, and I am happy to encourage them to be aware of their purchasing decisions through our work. CodeCheck tells them whether a product contains non-degradable polymers or microplastics and whether there is a soft drink that contains less sugar but is just as tasty. It is not a matter of doing without, but of making conscious purchasing decisions based on information that is difficult to access without CodeCheck.
Transparency as a corporate value
Last year, we were able to support consumers in 100 million purchasing decisions. This figure proves that many consumers want more transparency and support in their purchasing decisions. As the app becomes more widely known, critical voices are naturally also being raised, which we experienced in 2019. For almost ten years, we have been calling for more transparency, and we notice that this is also being demanded more strongly of us.
For this reason, I would like to show who is behind CodeCheck, how we earn our money, how we handle data, and what we are planning in the coming months.
The app and the team grow with the community
Last year, 2019, was a very successful year in terms of CodeCheck's growth. We cracked eight million downloads and now reach 3.5 million users in six markets. Our team has grown to 24 people in Zurich and Berlin. Inspiring people including Dr. Ruta Almedom, Dr. Tullio Bagnoli, Marina Baranovskaia, Nick Ionita, Shilpa Kathal, Pawel Klosowski, Amiya Purey, Nancy Mosqueda, Julia Buchterkirchen, Regula Ragazzi, Roni Shemer, Isabel Wilske, and Katharina Braun have joined our team, contributing toward a better product.
CodeCheck has gained new features. For example, products can be rated by our users, the app can be used offline, polymers are detected, and various product databases and manufacturer data have been integrated so that a rating is displayed with every scan. In numbers, 2 million products were added to our database in 2019!
Last year also allowed us to humbly admit that we need to do better and that we still have much to learn. The steady growth has meant that our servers have often been overloaded. We have rightly received criticism for this. People have been annoyed by both the advertising and the subscription model, which allows an ad-free app and offline scanning. We are also being asked how independent CodeCheck is.
The realization of big goals demands more than a good idea
We want to enable the most comprehensive evaluation of products possible and, therefore, need a team that has a thorough understanding of food and cosmetics, manufacturing and development, as well as data handling and software development. Only with such integrated knowledge can we deliver relevant, personalized evaluations. Our team should be paid fairly and on time, and, of course, we need to invest a lot in powerful servers and product data.
For these costs, we depend on the income that we receive from advertising and subscriptions as well as from projects that we carry out with manufacturers. The idea behind working with manufacturers is straightforward. We want to leverage directly at the product development stage and convince manufacturers that investments in healthy and sustainable products are essential. How do we do that? We analyze the feedback on products and provide manufacturers with completely anonymous reports that show, for example, which ingredients conscious consumers want and also that it pays to invest in sustainable packaging.
Independence is always a top priority at CodeCheck. No producer or retailer can influence the evaluation or display of alternative products in any way.
The handling of data and privacy
Privacy is always our top priority. CodeCheck uses trackers to analyze — also anonymously — user behavior. We need this to understand how the app is used and how we can improve it. Advertising networks, such as Google's, also use trackers so that they can display more relevant advertising. Users always have the choice of whether or not to provide data.
In 2020, we will focus strongly on making CodeCheck even more user-friendly. For example, we will reduce advertising, make the app faster, further increase the coverage of product data, and introduce new features such as calculating the carbon footprint.
2020 will be the year of CodeCheck. It will be a year of change!