Trade finance blockchain consortium Marco Polo Network has filed for insolvency after failing to obtain a last-minute cash injection to continue as a going concern.
According to court reporting by the Irish Examiner, during a hearing yesterday, the Irish High Court appointed Interpath Advisory Services as provisional liquidators to the trade finance blockchain consortium, which is in debt to the tune of €5.2mn.
Launched in September 2017 on R3’s Corda framework, Marco Polo aimed to simplify and speed up the processes behind open account trade finance services, signing up more than 30 banks as members. However, progress was slow. The network failed to move into production by the targeted date of early 2019, and a revised go-live date of Q2 2020 was also missed. By Q4 2020 Marco Polo was officially live with two modules: receivables discounting and payment commitments, although adoption of these brand-new trade instruments was limited to a handful of transactions. The blockchain-based payment commitment was quietly shelved last year.
After bringing in Jonathan Conway as chief technology officer in October last year, the company pivoted its offering, launching Supplier Pay, a smart matching and payments platform aimed initially at North American retailers and their supplier networks.
According to court reporting, the company told yesterday’s hearing that it had invested significant resources on the development of the product, and had been in discussions with Bank of America over an intended strategic partnership in a proposed US$12mn deal.
However, in the wake of several high-profile collapses of blockchain-based initiatives towards the end of 2022 the bank decided to pull out of talks, telling Marco Polo in late January that it would not proceed with the collaboration.
The company reportedly told the court that it has been unsuccessful in its attempts to raise further investment, and a majority of the company’s shareholders have passed a resolution to seek a winding-up order.
Marco Polo’s struggles to remain viable were well known among industry players, and it now becomes the latest in a series of trade digitisation projects to run out of cash before achieving success. In a surprise announcement in November last year, AP Moller-Maersk and IBM scrapped TradeLens, a blockchain-based supply chain ecosystem for containerised trade, citing its failure to attain “the level of commercial viability necessary to continue work and meet the financial expectations as an independent business”. In June, we.trade was forced to shut down after being unable to secure further investment to continue as a going concern, and HSBC called time on Serai, its wholly owned subsidiary that operated as an online B2B platform for SME trade, after the venture failed to make money.
Repeated contact requests by GTR to Marco Polo’s senior leadership went unanswered. Calls to its head office telephone number were diverted directly to an answering machine.
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