Marco Polo Network, the trade finance blockchain consortium that filed for insolvency earlier this year after failing to achieve commercial viability, has been revived – with new owners, a new strategy, and a new name.

The rebranded entity, now named Kanexa, is setting its sights firmly on the corporate side of the open account equation, in a move away from Marco Polo’s bank-led model. Kanexa’s proposition targets buyers and suppliers looking to automate processes in open account trade, aiming to bridge gaps that delay payments and hinder effective working capital management.

Its core offering is the Open Account Automation product, which uses blockchain and cloud technology to digitally exchange data between buyers and their suppliers, matching against contract terms and resolving discrepancies based on rules and trained patterns. The output is a fully approved, immutable digital asset for every transaction with every supplier, which is then used to execute payment and enable financing.

“We’ve had a number of very large corporates tell us they want their SME suppliers to get paid as fast as they possibly can or have the opportunity to use supplier financing programmes if offered, but that in some cases, they can’t approve invoices for up to 40 days because of discrepancies and reconciliation issues,” Rob Barnes, CEO of Kanexa, told GTR on the sidelines of the Sibos event in Toronto last week.

“Kanexa improves a process that takes days or weeks to minutes or seconds. What this means is the supplier knows when they’re going to get paid, the banks have a compliant invoice that they can finance, and the buyer has cleaner accounts payable processes.”

With a straightforward revenue model that simply charges per matched invoice, the new entity has already gained traction among corporate users. According to Barnes, 90% of Kanexa’s clients are in the retail industry, and the company is now expanding its reach into the food and beverage and consumer packaged goods verticals.

“Some of these companies have a discrepancy rate of over 30%, so fixing that problem is economically material,” he explains. “Our strategy is to go to those customers first, since we can deliver fantastic outcomes that have a tremendous impact on the way they run their business. These are the best customers for us to build upon.”

To ensure it is able to overcome hurdles to reaching scale – the main factor that led to Marco Polo’s downfall – Kanexa has also entered into what Barnes calls a “major partnership” with tech giant IBM to resell to banks and large global corporate customers.

Among banks already signed up is Bank of America, which is using Kanexa to underpin the first module of its newly launched Cashpro Supply Chain Solutions offering. GTR understands that the company is also collaborating with Bank of New York Mellon on a similar solution.

“We’re very focused, we’re very simple. We’re not trying to boil the ocean,” says Barnes. “It’s just solving for a key pain point that is something the corporates are asking for. We’re making things happen faster and we’re taking significant costs out of the process, reducing errors and avoiding any payment leakage.”

This simplicity stands in sharp focus to the original strategy for the Marco Polo Network. Launched in September 2017, Marco Polo sought to revolutionise open account trade finance through blockchain innovation, and signed 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, and the blockchain-based payment commitment was soon shelved.

“At its inception, Marco Polo had a group of banks that were all going to collaborate to reinvent a hybrid between open account and documentary trade. We did that and what we created was really good, but no bank wanted to use it and there was no buy-in, so it was a commercial disaster,” Barnes tells GTR.

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.

“What we learned as we were talking to corporates was that they wanted to solve for reconciliation, discrepancy handling, approvals and payments processing within their supply chain ecosystem. They just needed something that would give them greater synergies between their accounts payable and their suppliers’ accounts receivables to take the costs and errors out of the process,” explains Barnes.

“However, we just ran out of time. It was as simple as that. We ran out of money and we ran out of time.”

In February this year, after a majority of the company’s shareholders passed a resolution to seek a winding-up order, the company entered insolvency proceedings.

“We were fortunate that when we did go into liquidation, we had enough talent and value in the technology that we were picked up by an investment group that understood what we were doing. They spoke to a number of the corporates we were a long way down the line with, and that gave them the confidence to invest in us,” says Barnes.

GTR understands that the investor group is made up of three partners with experience in the open account and factoring space, and does not include any of Marco Polo’s former bank shareholders. Barnes declined to disclose the names of the investors. Alongside Barnes, core members of the former Marco Polo team, including co-founder Richard Tynan, and chief technology officer Conway, have remained on board.

After spending the last six months building the matching and discrepancy management functionality, the company is now integrating its solution into third-party tools such as Slack together with AI to handle human workflow management processes.

“We have now gone back to the roots of being a scrappy startup rather than try to pretend to be something that we’re not,” says Barnes. “We have a good relationship with a number of banks, and the goal is to partner with them to provide more value to their customers.”

“The true value to the corporate is in the open account automation process, where the bank is not involved at all, but the bank will pick up the payment and potentially financing at the end,” he adds. “Still, this is a big change in thinking for banks we are working with, but it is what their corporates are looking for.”