Richard Branson called Hyperloop One ‘ridiculously exciting’ five years ago. Now it’s shutting down

December 26, 2023 | by


In a stunning turn of events, Hyperloop One, a transportation startup once touted as the future of travel, is now shutting down. The news comes just five years after Richard Branson, billionaire and chairman of Virgin Group, expressed his excitement and investment in the project. Branson saw the potential in the technology, envisioning a world where hyperloops would connect countries and dramatically reduce journey times. However, signs of trouble were evident when the company decided to focus on cargo rather than passengers last year, and Virgin pulled its name. Now, with the closure of its Los Angeles office and the majority of its employees laid off, Hyperloop One is left searching for buyers for its various assets as its remaining workers face unemployment at the end of the year. The rise and fall of Hyperloop One serves as a cautionary tale about the challenges of bringing ambitious transportation visions to reality.

Richard Branson called Hyperloop One ‘ridiculously exciting’ five years ago. Now it’s shutting down

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Richard Branson’s Initial Involvement

Branson’s investment in Hyperloop One

In 2017, Richard Branson made a significant investment in Hyperloop One, a transportation startup that aimed to revolutionize the way people and cargo are transported between cities. Branson’s Virgin Group provided financial backing to support the development and advancement of the hyperloop technology.

Branson becomes chairman of Virgin Hyperloop

Following his investment, Richard Branson took on the role of chairman for the newly rebranded Virgin Hyperloop. Branson’s involvement brought a level of credibility and excitement to the project. He saw the potential of hyperloop technology to transform transportation and create faster and more efficient connections between countries.

Branson’s excitement and vision for the technology

Richard Branson expressed his immense excitement for the hyperloop technology, praising its potential to change transportation as we know it. He envisioned a future where Virgin Hyperloops connect countries and significantly reduce journey times. Branson’s enthusiasm and optimism contributed to the growing interest and anticipation surrounding the hyperloop concept.

The Hyperloop Concept

Elon Musk’s pitch for the hyperloop

The idea of the hyperloop was first presented by Elon Musk in 2013. Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, proposed the concept as a high-speed transportation system that would utilize pods traveling through low-pressure tubes. These pods could potentially reach speeds of up to 800 miles per hour, allowing for rapid transit between cities.

Origin of the idea

Elon Musk’s vision for the hyperloop originated from his dissatisfaction with California’s proposed high-speed rail system. He believed that the traditional rail system was expensive and faced numerous challenges, prompting him to explore alternative transportation solutions. Musk’s hyperloop concept aimed to address these issues and provide a faster and more cost-effective mode of transportation.

Musk’s criticism of California’s high-speed rail system

Elon Musk voiced his criticism of California’s high-speed rail system, questioning its feasibility and cost-effectiveness. He believed that the hyperloop technology had the potential to surpass the capabilities of the rail system and provide a more efficient and sustainable mode of transportation.

Richard Branson called Hyperloop One ‘ridiculously exciting’ five years ago. Now it’s shutting down

Financial Troubles

Hyperloop One’s funding history

Hyperloop One managed to raise over $450 million in funding since its establishment in 2014. Various investors, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, supported the company’s development and growth. However, despite the substantial funding, the company faced financial troubles that would eventually impact its operations.

Shutting down of the company

Unfortunately, signs of trouble within Hyperloop One began to surface, leading to the ultimate decision to shut down the company. The venture, which had not secured any contracts to build a hyperloop, faced challenges in realizing its initial vision. These challenges, combined with financial difficulties, prompted the company to reassess its direction and ultimately cease operations.

Signs of trouble and change in focus

Prior to its closure, Hyperloop One made the strategic decision to shift its focus from passenger transportation to cargo transportation. While this change aimed to adapt to the realities of the market, it signaled a deviation from the initial vision of creating a revolutionary mode of passenger travel. The change in focus was a clear indication of the challenges the company faced and its struggle to find a sustainable business model.

Shift to Cargo

Decision to focus on cargo transportation

Hyperloop One made a significant shift in its strategy by choosing to prioritize cargo transportation over passenger travel. This decision was driven by the perceived immediate market demand for efficient cargo logistics and the potential profitability in that sector. However, this shift marked a departure from the initial vision of transforming passenger travel through hyperloop technology.

Virgin pulls its name from the venture

As Hyperloop One transitioned its focus to cargo transportation, the Virgin Group decided to remove its name from the venture. This rebranding signaled a changing landscape and the company’s attempt to redefine itself within the transportation industry.

Impacts on employees and closure of the Los Angeles office

The shift in focus and the challenges faced by Hyperloop One had significant impacts on its employees. The company had to lay off a majority of its workforce, leaving only a small number of employees with uncertain futures. Additionally, the closure of the Los Angeles office served as a physical representation of the company’s struggles and the need to reevaluate its operations.


Richard Branson called Hyperloop One ‘ridiculously exciting’ five years ago. Now it’s shutting down

Branson’s Initial Optimism

Branson’s statement about the investment

Upon making the investment in Hyperloop One, Richard Branson expressed his confidence in the technology and its potential to revolutionize transportation. He visited the company’s test site in Nevada and was convinced that the groundbreaking technology would dramatically cut journey times and bring the world closer together.

Assurances of near-future hyperloop reality

During an interview with CNBC, Richard Branson confidently predicted that working hyperloops were only two to three years away. His optimism and reassurances further fueled excitement surrounding the hyperloop concept and its potential impact on the transportation industry.

Current situation contradicting earlier optimism

Unfortunately, the current situation with Hyperloop One contradicts Richard Branson’s earlier optimism. The company’s closure and financial struggles demonstrate the significant challenges and obstacles associated with bringing the hyperloop technology to fruition. While the initial vision was ambitious, the realities of the market and the complexities of implementation proved to be more formidable than initially anticipated.

Asset Sale and Employee Layoffs

Attempts to sell various assets

In an effort to secure its financial stability, Hyperloop One has undertaken attempts to sell various assets. By selling off these assets, the company aims to generate funds and potentially find a new direction for its technology. However, the process of selling assets poses its own challenges and may not provide a complete resolution to the company’s financial troubles.

Impending end of employment for remaining workers

The remaining employees of Hyperloop One face an impending end to their employment. With a December 31 deadline for termination, these employees are left facing an uncertain future. The closure of Hyperloop One has undoubtedly had a significant impact on its workforce, highlighting the toll that financial troubles can take on both the company and its employees.

Dec. 31 deadline for employee termination

The deadline of December 31 serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by Hyperloop One and the urgency to find solutions. With the termination of employment looming, the company and its employees are left grappling with the aftermath of the closure and seeking opportunities for the future.

Richard Branson called Hyperloop One ‘ridiculously exciting’ five years ago. Now it’s shutting down

Impact on Transportation Industry

Loss of potential transportation revolution

The closure of Hyperloop One represents a loss of what could have been a transportation revolution. The hyperloop concept promised a significant paradigm shift in how people and cargo are transported, offering faster and more efficient options. However, the challenges faced by Hyperloop One demonstrate the difficulties associated with bringing such ambitious ideas to fruition.

Questions about the viability of hyperloop technology

The struggles faced by Hyperloop One raise questions about the viability and practicality of hyperloop technology. While the concept has generated significant interest and excitement, the realities of implementation and market demand have proven to be significant obstacles. The challenges faced by Hyperloop One serve as a cautionary tale for future transportation startups.

Lessons learned from the Hyperloop One experience

The experience of Hyperloop One has provided valuable lessons for both the transportation industry and the startup ecosystem. It highlights the importance of realistic expectations, market research, and sustainable business models. The challenges faced by Hyperloop One demonstrate the need for thorough planning, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the complexities involved in bringing revolutionary transportation ideas to the market.

Hyperloop One’s Legacy

Legacy as an ambitious project

Hyperloop One’s legacy lies in its ambition and vision for the future of transportation. The company dared to challenge conventional modes of travel and proposed a radical solution to existing transportation problems. While it ultimately faced difficulties and closure, Hyperloop One’s impact on the industry cannot be understated.

The impact of Branson’s involvement

Richard Branson’s involvement in Hyperloop One brought significant attention and credibility to the project. His investment and subsequent role as chairman elevated the profile of the company and created excitement and anticipation. Branson’s vision and optimism contributed to the belief that hyperloop technology was on the cusp of transforming transportation.

Lessons for future transportation startups

Hyperloop One’s journey provides valuable lessons for future transportation startups. It highlights the need for a sustainable business model, a thorough understanding of the market, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The challenges faced by Hyperloop One demonstrate that innovation alone is not enough and that a comprehensive and strategic approach is necessary for success.

Richard Branson called Hyperloop One ‘ridiculously exciting’ five years ago. Now it’s shutting down

The Future of Hyperloop Technology

Challenges and obstacles to overcome

The future of hyperloop technology is not without its challenges and obstacles. Hyperloop concepts must overcome technological, regulatory, and financial hurdles in order to become a reality. The experiences of Hyperloop One illustrate the complexities involved in developing and implementing such a disruptive technology.

Other companies and projects pursuing hyperloop

Despite the challenges faced by Hyperloop One, other companies and projects continue to pursue the development of hyperloop technology. Competitors and innovators in the industry are striving to overcome the obstacles and bring their own visions of hyperloop transportation to fruition. These ongoing efforts demonstrate the continued interest and belief in the potential of hyperloop technology.

Potential for future advancements and implementations

While the current state of hyperloop technology may be uncertain, there is still potential for future advancements and implementations. The concept offers the possibility of faster, greener, and more efficient transportation options, and the technology continues to evolve. Continued research, innovation, and investment may eventually bring about the realization of the hyperloop’s full potential.


The rise and fall of Hyperloop One serve as a cautionary tale within the transportation industry. It highlights the challenges associated with developing and implementing revolutionary transportation concepts. Despite the significant financial investment and the involvement of high-profile individuals like Richard Branson, Hyperloop One ultimately faced insurmountable obstacles that led to its closure.

The implications for the transportation industry are significant. While the hyperloop concept promises transformational possibilities, the realities of implementation and market demand must be carefully considered. However, the experiences of Hyperloop One should not diminish the ongoing pursuit of innovative transportation solutions. Lessons learned from this venture can inform future endeavors and contribute to the development of a more connected and efficient world of transportation.

In the future, hyperloop technology may yet become a reality. With ongoing efforts from other companies and projects, there is still hope for the realization of this ambitious vision. The challenges and obstacles faced by Hyperloop One should serve as valuable lessons for those who dare to imagine and strive for a better transportation future.

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