Virgin adds its investment (and its brand name) to Hyperloop One transit venture

Richard Branson at Hyperloop One track
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson dons a hardhat during his visit to Hyperloop One’s test track in Nevada. (Virgin Photo / Greg Rose)

British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has invested in the Hyperloop One rapid-transit venture, which will soon be rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One, the company announced today.

The arrangement was described as a global strategic partnership rather than an acquisition.

“For more than 20 years, Richard and Virgin have been at the forefront of transportation innovation, and a partnership with them feels like a natural fit,” Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and executive chairman of Hyperloop One, said in a news release. “Virgin is an iconic brand, and having Richard as an ally will help strengthen our mission to spread Hyperloop One throughout the world.”

In a Virgin.com blog posting, Branson said Hyperloop One was “just the latest example” of Virgin’s passion for innovation.

The Hyperloop concept was laid out in 2013 by Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, but Musk has no financial interest in Hyperloop One. The concept calls for the construction of low-pressure tube networks through which electric-powered pods could carry cargo and passengers at near-supersonic speeds. Theoretically, a Hyperloop trip from Seattle to Portland could take as little as 15 minutes.

Hyperloop One has already tested a prototype of the system on a track in Nevada, and is working on development deals in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, the Netherlands, India, Canada and the U.S.

Branson will take a seat on Hyperloop One’s board, but Pishevar and other executives said Virgin would not be the only operator of the transportation systems.

Virgin Group’s investment was part of an $ 85 million Series B-1 funding round that Hyperloop One had announced last month. Virgin’s participation was not announced at the time. Even today, the two companies held off from saying how much of the $ 85 million came from Virgin.

Hyperloop One said last month’s funding round brought the total financing raised by the three-year-old company to $ 245 million. Today, Bloomberg News quoted an unidentified source as saying Hyperloop One is looking to raise another $ 200 million early next year.

At least one other venture, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, is aiming to commercialize the Hyperloop concept, and Musk himself is getting involved in the marketplace. He has already founded a tunneling venture called the Boring Company, and in July, he said he received “verbal government approval” for building an underground Hyperloop system between New York and Washington, D.C.

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