Hyperloop Technologies Has a Real CEO

The Hyperloop looks more and more like a real technology and a genuine business than a fanciful pipe dream. Hyperloop Technologies, or Hyper Loop Tech, the privately held startup created by Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar, has hired a professional executive as a full-time chief executive officer, Tech Crunch reported.

Rob Lloyd, the former of president of computer hardware maker Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CISCO), will take over the CEO position from the colorfully named engineer Brogan BamBrogan, who will become the company’s Chief Technology Officer, or CTO. Lloyd is a highly experienced entrepreneur and executive with 30 years of experience in the technology business. Pishevar will serve as chairman of Hyperloop Tech’s board, CNBC reported.

At Cisco, Lloyd was involved in the early development of the Internet and helped oversee the development, design, manufacture and installation of much of the infrastructure that made that marvel possible. In a blog post at Hyper Loop Tech’s website, Lloyd likens the Hyperloop to the Internet, which is a very apt analogy.

The Engineering Is a Certainty

“The engineering is a certainty,” Lloyd said of Hyperloop on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street. “This is going to be about execution and turning Hyperloop into a reality.”

“Hyperloop will become a global network of connected technologies except we will be moving atoms, not bits, and will do so faster, cheaper, safer and greener,” Lloyd wrote.

The Hyperloop could do for transportation, particularly freight transport, what the Internet did for data transmittal—make it incredibly cheap and readily available. That could lead to thousands of new businesses and vast amounts of profit if it works. Lloyd gives a description of the Hyperloop’s potential in a recent blog that is well worth reading:

“The Hyperloop vision is compelling and disruptive,” Lloyd wrote. “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. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

The list of industries that Hyperloop could disrupt or completely transform is enormous. It includes manufacturing, energy, oil, food production, housing, retail, mining, agriculture, airlines, trucking, railroads, delivery, shipping, automobiles, electronics, and freight, just to name a few. Lloyd, who had experience with another highly disruptive technology, the Internet, is a good choice to lead that effort.

The Adult in the Building

Lloyd’s role at Hyperloop Tech is to be the adult in the building, the experienced, gray-haired practical executive who can ride herd on the unruly and dreamy young engineers. Many technology companies have had such an adult as CEO, including Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), where Eric Schmidt famously played that role.

The Hyperloop Tech Management Team at their Los Angeles HQ.
The Hyperloop Tech Management Team at their Los Angeles HQ.

Lloyd will also serve as Hyperloop’s ambassador to the world. He has had 20 years of building relationships with other companies and organizations all over the world at Cisco. Now he will bring that experience to Hyperloop Tech and build an ecosystem based on the technology.

In addition to serving as CEO, Lloyd will also be an investor and serve on the company’s board of directors. He is not the only experienced executive joining the Hyperloop Tech team; former Snapchat Chief Operating Officer (COO) Emily While will join the board as observer. Her role is unclear, but it sounds as if more and more experienced executives will be joining the team soon.

The bottom line is that Hyperloop Tech is looking more and more like a real technology startup and less and less like a bunch of engineers in the backroom. The company is also raising $80 million in a round of Series B investments and is planning to have a test track up and running near Downtown Los Angeles by late 2016 or 2017. That means we could see testing of Hyperloop capsules in Los Angeles within two years.

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The company already has raised $11.1 million from a variety of investors, including Russian tycoon Ziyavudin Magomedov. Magomedov is the 41st richest person in Russia; he’s worth around $3 billion, and he controls the investment company Summa Group. He also seems to have connections to Vladimir Putin’s government, which could help get Hyperloop built in the Russian Federation. Other investors include ZhenFund, a Chinese angel investment group that calls itself a “Dream Center” and a “True Grid Fund”; Caspian VC Partners, a somewhat mysterious Venture Capital organization; and Pishevar’s Sherpa Investments.

In addition to the test track, Hyperloop Tech is running dozens of experiments at its Los Angeles headquarters. The experiments are designed to see if the technology will actually work, something that is still uncertain. Among other things, they will have to figure out how air pressure and movement at 700 miles per hour will affect people and freight. A number of miniature Hyperloop tubes are already up and running at the LA offices.

Are Foreign Governments Involved with Hyperloop?

Once the testing is done, Hyperloop Tech will try to build a demonstration project that will, unfortunately, be in another country. If it is the United States, the project probably will not be in California. Lloyd said it would have to be outside of California because the company will need government backing for a demonstration project.

“There’s a high probability it will be in a different country, although there are some opportunities in the United States,” Lloyd told Tech Crunch. “Naturally, we’re going to move as quickly as possible where the right-of-way and regulatory support are with us.”

That sounds as if a foreign government is involved in the plan, although Lloyd did not say that. A strong possibility is that the Russian or Chinese governments are involved or both because of the connections to ZhenFund and Mr. Magomedov.

It sounds as if Hyperloop is far closer to becoming a reality than some of the doubters thought. This technology could be up and running in five years, which would be the most disruptive thing in ground transportation since the advent of the automobile just before World War I.