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Helping Businesses Grow: Q&A with Marc Held, CEO of Fishtail

Fishtail, a Boston-based trade finance automation platform, recently joined Percent’s growing roster of financial technology platforms and providers. We sat down with CEO Marc Held to talk about this exciting partnership and Fishtail’s vision for the future.

Percent: Fishtail began last year, as the world was slowly inching back from the pandemic. What were the challenges in launching a company during such an uncertain time?

Marc Held: The hardest part for us about starting a business in the middle of a pandemic was the requirement to be 100% remote from day one. Since starting, we’ve grown to seven-plus time zones, which is an absolute “nightmare” for getting everyone on a Zoom call at the same time, but has forced us to run our business in a truly asynchronous and document-driven way.

Being spread across many of the world’s time zones and documenting our process and communications systematically and diligently ended up being two of the core drivers of our growth, enabling us (as a relatively small team) to efficiently work with businesses of all sizes around the world.

Where is Fishtail seeing demand for trade finance? In what sectors?

While we started out financing the production of pharmaceuticals in India for distribution across Mexico, we’ve been seeing lots of demand for working capital in goods and freight across the board. The production of electronics in Hong Kong to be distributed across Africa, trans-pacific freight on behalf of budding e-commerce companies in the United States, and even the importing of dairy products into Panama being just a few examples of a diverse trade landscape.

We’re helping small- and medium-sized businesses grow by enabling them to fight above their weight class.

What technologies and data streams does Fishtail utilize for surveillance and due diligence?

We leverage public, private, and proprietary data sets globally to underwrite transactions faster and more accurately. Our background in supply chain, alternative credit, and workflow automation is some of the secret sauce that lets us finance the traditionally un-financed!

Investors appreciate our data and analytics that provide risk visibility and control, and an overall level of comfort and trust with the underlying trade financing assets.

What are the challenges some small- and medium-sized businesses face as financial institutions reduce access to financing? How is Fishtail helping?

Small- and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy, and yet they have a hard time getting any sort of capital from old-school financial institutions. If they do manage to convince a bank or factor to part with their money, rates can be very high. A lot of the cost and complexity around providing trade finance to smaller businesses comes from financial institutions not understanding supply chains or lacking any sort of technology to automate the process (and as such having to “throw bodies” at the problem).

Being born in the digital age with true expertise in the global supply chain means that Fishtail can lend faster and  earlier to smaller businesses anywhere in the planet.

How does Fishtail’s mission separate it from other financial platforms?

Not only does Fishtail want to finance small businesses, we’re also touching markets and geographies that larger financial institutions aren’t and offering truly flexible working capital so that our borrowers can take on more and larger orders.

How has Fishtail benefitted from partnering with Percent?

Percent has been a truly novel asset for us to gain access to private credit investors and showcase the truly novel asset class that we’re generating. On top of access to their network of private credit investors, the ease of issuance makes it an absolute no-brainer for any fintech lender to work with Percent.

What are you looking forward to most for the future of Fishtail?

Increasing SMB access to trade finance is something that we’re generally excited about, but I’m very much looking forward to some of our upcoming financial products that will incentivize positive behavior in business.

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