(Bloomberg) — Hyperloop One, the futuristic transportation company building tube-encased lines to zip passengers and freight from city to city at airplane-like speeds, is shutting down, according to people familiar with the situation.
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Once a high-profile startup, Hyperloop One raised more than $450 million since its founding in 2014, according to PitchBook. It built a small test track near Las Vegas to develop its transportation technology, and for a time took the name Virgin Hyperloop One after Richard Branson’s Virgin invested. Virgin removed its branding after the startup decided last year to focus on cargo rather than people.
Now, the company has laid off most of its employees, and is trying to sell its remaining assets, including the test track and machinery, according to one of the people, who asked to remain anonymous discussing private information. In early 2022, the company employed more than 200 people. The business has also closed its Los Angeles office. The remaining workers, tasked with overseeing the asset sale, were told their employment will end on Dec. 31.
DP World, the Dubai-based conglomerate, has backed Hyperloop One since 2016 and owns a majority stake. The startup’s remaining intellectual property will be transferred to DP World, a person familiar with the situation said.
Through a spokesman, DP World declined to comment. Raja Narayanan, Hyperloop One’s acting chief executive officer, also didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Hyperloop One, formally known as Hyperloop Technologies, merged with a shell company this April, according to a document reviewed by Bloomberg. At that time, the value of shares in most classes was written down to zero cents, and the shareholders of the shell company became the only owners of Hyperloop One. At an all-hands meeting, employees were told that DP World orchestrated the transaction, according to one of the people.
The company had captured the public’s imagination since its founding in 2014, a year after Elon Musk released a white paper outlining a vision for hyperloop technology. The concept was a tantalizing promise of a new kind of transportation technology — and an end to traffic.
But the nascent industry stumbled, and Hyperloop One never won a contract to build a working hyperloop. The company also attracted plenty of attention for the wrong reasons. Co-founder Brogan BamBrogan once arrived at work to find a noose on his chair. And another co-founder, the venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, stepped aside after Bloomberg reported on sexual harassment allegations against him, which he denied. A one-time director, Ziyavudin Magomedov, was arrested in Moscow on charges of fraud and embezzlement unrelated to Hyperloop One. At the time, Magomedov’s lawyer said he was appealing the arrest.
Although no large-scale hyperloop has been built after years of effort, the concept continues to enchant entrepreneurs. Several hyperloop companies are at various stages of building protoypes, including Hardt Hyperloop, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. and Swisspod Technologies.
Musk has promoted the field as well, creating a series of competitions for student-designed hyperloops and building a now-demolished test track. He also started Boring Co., a tunneling business that has pursued related technology.
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