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Virgin Hyperloop One Closes Majority Of $225 Million Funding Round, Filings Show

Because this is America and we love cars and convenience, some banks offer drive-throughs, which typically come in one of three forms.

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There’s the kind with a window and an actual human bank teller, the kind with an automated teller machine, and this reporter’s personal favorite: the pneumatic tubes. The whoosh of air, the satisfying thump of a capsule coming to a halt, a lollipop that comes with your transaction receipt because you lied and said there was a kid in the car. It’s all a delight.

Hyperloop is an open-source transportation technology built around that same tube and capsule concept. Except instead of checks and suckers, its capsules are scaled to carry people and freight.

And rather than using air pressure to propel capsules through a tube, Hyperloop’s design requires reducing intra-tube air pressure to a near vacuum. This reduces air resistance, which, in turn, means that capsules can hurtle down the tunnels at phenomenal speed: up to 600 miles per hour.

A Hyperloop One capsule on the test track. Via Virgin Hyperloop One.

Virgin Hyperloop One is one of several companies working to commercialize the open-sourced specifications for hyperloop tech, which was originally published by a joint team of Tesla and SpaceX engineers in 2013. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it takes a lot of capital to get a mass transit infrastructure company off the ground, which is why Virgin Hyperloop One appears to be raising additional cash.

According to paperwork filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday, Hyperloop Technologies, Inc. (doing business as “Virgin Hyperloop One”) disclosed its intent to raise nearly $225 million in new equity funding. The filing states that the company has already secured $172.2 million, leaving $52.5 million in the equity offering as-yet unsold. So far, 80 investors contributed to Virgin Hyperloop One’s round.

According to the filing, the company first secured capital for this round on April 29, 2019, two weeks ago. Private companies raising capital under Rule 506(b) of Regulation D, like Virgin Hyperloop One is doing here, are required to file a Form D within 15 days of the date of first sale.

The filing lists company executives and current board members.

Executives on the board include:

  • Joshua Giegel, co-founder and chief technology officer of Virgin Hyperloop One. Giegel previously led propulsion stage systems design at Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceflight company.
  • Jay Walder, who was appointed CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One in November 2018. Walder was previously CEO of bike-sharing company Motivate, which was acquired by Lyft in July 2018.

Current non-executive board directors include:

  • Sultan Ahmen Bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of DP World, the largest port operator in Dubai. Sultan Bin Sulayem was appointed chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One in November 2018.
  • Yuvraj Narayan, the chief financial officer of DP World.
  • Patrick McCall, a senior managing director at Virgin Group. McCall’s other board positions include Virgin Active, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Money, Virgin Trains, and OneWeb, according to his profile on the Virgin Group’s website.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, a minority shareholder in Virgin Hyperloop One, stepped down as chairperson of the company’s board in October 2018. McCall filled Branson’s seat.

Virgin Hyperloop One’s board has gone through a number of changes. Among other turnover events, Russian billionaire Ziyavudin Magomedov was removed from the board in early April 2018 following an arrest on charges of embezzling more than $35 million from a business venture unrelated to Virgin Hyperloop One. Additionally, co-founder Shervin Pishevar left Virgin Hyperloop One in late 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct and assault.

According to Crunchbase, Virgin Hyperloop One has raised at least $196.2 million in known venture funding, but it’s likely the company has raised more than that. A February 2019 New York Times profile of Virgin Hyperloop One said the company has raised $295 million; it’s unclear whether any part of the fundraise disclosed today is included in that sum.

The company isn’t alone in the race to build hyperloop tech. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, also based in Los Angeles, has raised over $30 million in known funding to date. (The New York Times said it’s raised $42 million.) Toronto-based Transpod has raised $52 million in venture backing, according to the Times.

A future with warp-speed overland transport may still feel far away, and, let’s face it, it is. But investors are willing to bet that it’s not too far on the horizon.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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