we.trade, a blockchain-based platform for open account trade, has closed its doors after being unable to secure further investment to continue as a going concern, GTR has learned.

we.trade is a joint-venture company owned by 12 European banks and IBM, with shareholders including CaixaBank, Deutsche Bank, Erste Group, HSBC, KBC, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale, UBS and UniCredit. Initially built by IBM, the we.trade platform is powered by Hyperledger Fabric, and is currently licensed by 16 banks across 15 countries.

In 2018, it was registered as a standalone legal entity, and officially started facilitating real-world commercial transactions in March 2019.

However, it wasn’t long before the platform ran into financial difficulties. In 2020, it was forced to slash its workforce by around half, after funding raised from some shareholder banks proved lower than expected, with many opting not to reinvest in recent rounds. At the same time, a potentially significant injection of funding from Euler Hermes (now Allianz Trade) – believed to be in the region of €2-3mn – did not materialise. A source close to we.trade tells GTR that at that time, the company appointed PwC as liquidators, but an eleventh-hour funding injection from IBM, which took a 7% stake in the company and agreed to defer certain financial obligations owed to it by we.trade, enabled the platform to keep going.

This allowed for a new capital round to take place in 2021, in which Omer Ahsan, chairman of we.trade, told GTR at the time that six of the platform’s 12 member banks, among them HSBC, La Caixa, Nordea and Santander, invested a total of €3mn.

In addition to the investment from the member banks, CRIF, a provider of credit bureau and business information, outsourcing and processing services, also came on board, putting in €2.5mn in the same round.

However, that overall €5.5mn investment appears to have only been enough to keep the company afloat for another 18 months. In a memo dated May 26 and seen by GTR, the company told its shareholders that it had been “forced to discontinue” its activities.

“In order for any company to increase the adoption of any innovative solution, like blockchain, additional investments are not just important but a necessity,” the memo says, adding that the company had been unable to reach an agreement with its joint venture shareholders on the financing of these investments.

According to the Irish Independent, the joint venture has called a creditors’ meeting for next week where it is proposed a liquidator from PwC be appointed.

“For any customers already connected to the we.trade platform, each member bank will now engage with their customers directly to manage any existing trade activities to a close and discuss alternative solutions outside the we.trade platform for future trading opportunities”, the memo seen by GTR says.

we.trade did not respond to repeated requests by GTR for comment.