Freight forwarding and supply chain finance provider Beacon has opened a new office in Hong Kong and made a senior appointment.

The London-based company is hoping to expand its international footprint with the new Hong Kong unit, enabling it easier access to lucrative opportunities in Asia’s growing global manufacturing hub.

Beacon was launched in 2018 by former Uber executives Fraser Robinson and Dmitri Izmailov. The following year Pierre Martin, a former head of engineering at Amazon, was appointed CTO.

Joining Beacon in the new office is James Yu, previously logistics programme manager for Asia at Uber, who takes up the role of ocean procurement lead for Hong Kong. When contacted by GTR, Beacon was unable to comment on who else may be joining its new team.

Beacon’s biggest trade route is between Asia and Europe and so establishing a physical presence in Hong Kong is a strategic move for the company.

“The insights gained from having a local presence also means Beacon can continue to develop its technology for the benefit of both customers and their manufacturers,” reads a statement from the company.

The startup uses AI, cloud and automation technologies to offer ocean, air and truck freight, together with supply chain finance, all of which can be accessed and managed on a single platform.

“As the world’s leading manufacturing hub, Asia is central to our expansion strategy and we are pleased to have opened an office here and made our first hire,” says Robinson, who holds the CEO title.

“A large proportion of our cargo volumes originate in Asia and it is important to us that we have a local presence to provide better service to our customers and their partners in China and the surrounding areas.”

The news follows accusations that Beacon’s co-founders stole information from logistics and shipping firm Vanguard.

According to claims filed on behalf of Vanguard to a California court in late October, as reported by GTR, Robinson allegedly used his time as a director and board member at US-based Vanguard to collect trade secrets, including operational and pricing data, customer and vendor lists, and product strategy plans. Vanguard accuses Robinson of using this information to set up a “copycat company” in November 2018.

Beacon has refuted the allegations. “What we have seen so far is an ill-thought-out action which is entirely without merit and which has been brought in the wrong jurisdiction,” a spokesperson for the company told GTR last month. “Any claim will be robustly defended.”

Beacon also made headlines in June when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos participated in its US$15mn series A funding round.

Bezos joined other high-profile investors in the company, including Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as venture capital firms Neo, Red Sea Ventures, Mantaray and FJ Labs.