After working in the banking and shipping industry for years, Johnson decided to make a drastic challenge to his career by establishing 300cubits, a fintech startup co-founded with Johnathan Lee. Both of them graduated in 1994 as the first cohort of undergraduate alumni.
Johnson saw that in shipping there has been a problem in the booking process and an urgency in the industry to fix it. Unlike the booking process of other transportation, in container shipping when a customer makes a booking, they don't need to put down any kind of deposit. When they do not show up, there are no consequences. A lot of customers, therefore, handle bookings very casually and container liners tend to overbook 30 to 40 per cent every time. It also creates inconvenience for the customers; if they make a booking and get it confirmed from a liner, when they send the cargo into the terminal, actually they do not know whether it will get on board.
The pair was inspired to form 300cubits in August 2017, which deploys a cryptocurrency – a decentralized, digital medium of exchange protected by cryptography, of which the best known is bitcoin – called TEU. It's based on the platform Ethereum, which supports a type of secure, distributed ledger known as blockchain. Tokens will be given to shipping companies and their customers, who can use them as booking deposits; the system protects both the former, who are compensated in case of a no-show, and the latter, who know a confirmation actually means something. To make it worth something, they went to the capital markets and sold 20 per cent of the tokens, so all the tokens they create have a value – they can be used when handing out to shipping companies and customers as booking deposits.
Graduated in 1994 as one of the first batch of students, Johnson has a great affection for HKUST. “My studies weren’t related to shipping or finance, but the experience of being the first graduates – I think many of them like to try new things, or we wouldn't have entered a university that was still a construction site,” says Johnson.