Wave BL, a blockchain-based digital courier platform, has raised US$8mn in a series B funding round, which it will use to boost take-up of its electronic bill of lading (eBL) solution among banks.
The investment comes from container line ZIM – which is already an investor in Wave – and Israeli entrepreneur Marius Nacht, and the proceeds will be used to support the further implementation of Wave’s blockchain-based technology beyond carriers.
“We are seeing growing interest from others in our sector to adopt [Wave’s] platform, reflecting the significant benefits it provides to both customers and carriers,” says Eli Glickman, CEO of ZIM. “This new investment in Wave BL is a step forward in the path to a more digitised and sustainable future.”
Wave’s distributed ledger network uses blockchain technology to enable parties to issue, exchange and sign a variety of supply chain encrypted documents with no need for a central server or registry. It completed the world’s first live blockchain trade transaction with Barclays in 2016, and since then it says that it has signed up five shipping carriers which jointly represent 40% of the world’s container shipping supply chain.
“Wave is a network, and we are working to achieve the network effect in global trade,” Gadi Ruschin, CEO of Wave, tells GTR. “We started with the carriers, then we moved to the freight forwarders, and now have 22 out of the top 50 signed up to Wave. Now we are going to the banks and beneficial cargo owners.”
To achieve this, the company has brought in former banker Ofer Ein Bar as head of financial institutions. With professional experience including 16 years at HSBC Israel, most recently as head of payments and cash management, and three years at Bank Hapoalim as the head of digital banking development, Ein Bar will be tasked with leading and managing all of Wave’s bank-related activities and operations.
The eBL currently accounts for only 0.1% of all bill of lading issuances, and Ruschin says that the key to increasing this number lies within financial institutions.
“Our main goal for the coming couple of years is to reframe trade finance ,” says Ruschin. “The use of trade finance instruments has reduced in recent years, and this is not because counterparties now trust each other, or that importers have become rich. It is because the paper-based processes in trade finance create cost and friction.”
The investment into Wave comes amid a series of developments in the eBL space. Last month, Singapore became the second country, after Bahrain, to adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR) into domestic legislation, effectively granting an eBL the same legal status as its paper equivalent. Meanwhile, late last year, the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) completed its work on standardising the eBL in order to better facilitate its acceptance by regulators, banks and insurers.
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