Hyperloop Technologies, an ambitious Los Angeles startup that aims to commercialize superfast transportation systems around the world, announced Wednesday that it has appointed Rob Lloyd, a 20-year veteran of Cisco Systems Inc., as its new CEO. The company also announced the addition of Emily White, the former chief operating officer of Snapchat Inc., as a special adviser and observer to the company board.
In an interview, Lloyd said that after he resigned from Cisco in June, he met with the Hyperloop Technologies team and was “blown away” by the work they were doing.
“I was hooked,” Lloyd said. “I thought the vision was huge. I thought the team was outstanding and the progress they were making was exceptional.”
Hyperloop Technologies was founded in 2014 by Brogan BamBrogan, a former SpaceX engineer, and Shervin Pishevar, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early investor in Uber.
In 2013, Elon Musk suggested the idea for an ultrafast (700 mph) closed transportation system that would take passengers from San Fransisco to Los Angeles in less than an hour. Independently from Musk, BamBrogan and Pishevar seized on the idea, but imagined more than just commuter travel between two California cities -- the company wants to become a global transportation provider “for people, cargo and trade.”
The company now has more than 40 employees, and a star-studded board of directors, including David Sacks, the founder of Yammer; Jim Messina, the former White House deputy chief of staff under U.S. President Barack Obama; Peter Diamandis, the chairman and CEO of the X Prize; and Joe Lonsdale, a co-founder of Palantir Technologies Inc.
Before joining Hyperloop Technologies, Lloyd spent 20 years at Cisco, where he served as the company’s president and oversaw its worldwide operations. Armed with plenty of international deal-making experience, Lloyd envisions Hyperloop branching out of domestic markets, and becoming the go-to high-tech transportation technology firm around the world.
“What makes Hyperloop Technologies different than many startups is that the first customer may not be in the United States,” Lloyd said. “It might be, but it could easily be in a different part in the world. Perhaps the Middle East or in Russia, or in the U.K. or in China.”
Lloyd knows he needs to act quickly. Although Musk proposed the idea just two years ago, there’s already plenty of competition.
The similarly named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, another Los Angeles hyperloop startup, recently announced major co-development deals with engineering firms to begin building a hyperloop prototype. And while Musk claims to not be developing his own commercial Hyperloop system, he announced this summer a Hyperloop competition, as well as a one-mile test track adjacent to SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
“The company ethos is fast,” Lloyd said. “Build it fast. That’s a spirit we’re going to continue to nurture because it’s a key differentiator to making this a commercial reality.”
Why are entrepreneurs so jazzed about the Hyperloop? Well, unsurprisingly, reinventing the modern transportation system presents a wildly lucrative endeavor. (Remember what happened to the entrepreneurs who built the first American railroads?) Hyperloop Technologies raised $8.5 million from investors late last year, but is now looking to another round of investment -- to raise potentially as much as $80 million -- in the coming months.
“What was clearly intriguing to me was the size of this market,” Lloyd said. “The aggregate market for transportation -- including the equipment market, the cargo market and the people transportation market -- has an aggregate market value of $154 trillion over the next 25 years. That alone is fascinating.”
According to Lloyd, the incoming investment will be used to develop a two-mile test loop to begin experimenting with its new systems. Right now, he said they’re not ready to announce the specific test site, but they have already reviewed several potential locations and will be announcing a location in the next couple of months.
True to form, Lloyd said the company is moving at an incredibly fast pace. In the past eight weeks, the company built an 18-cubic-meter levitation rig, as well as the so-called Big Tube, a carbon-steel vessel weighing about 70,000 pounds, running 50 feet long and measuring 12 feet in diameter “to serve as a central test vessel for all future hardware development.” The bulky equipment now sits in the courtyard of the company’s 54,000-square-foot Los Angeles headquarters.
“Developing the most transformative new mode of transportation that the world has seen in decades will have a profound impact on people, on economies and on how we all live in the future” Lloyd wrote in an email to Hyperloop Technologies employees Wednesday. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”