The original celebrity billionaire strikes once again. Once calling himself “The Rebel Billionaire,” Richard Branson has officially joined the Board of Directors in charge of Hyperloop One, The Verge reports. Branson was so impressed with the hyperloop technology that he invested his own money in it. Literally. With his own entrepreneurial ingenue gaining a spot in the California-based tech start-up, he may have found a new way to shake up the competition with the other celebrity billionaire, Elon Musk. But this time, SpaceX may no longer be at the forefront of that soon-to-be-revived rivalry.
Branson himself tweeted a link to his press release with the headline “Delighted to announce Virgin Group’s investment in Hyperloop One - the world’s most revolutionary train service.”
It is familiar territory for him, he told CNBC. “As a train owner, I felt this is something that I want to be able to operate,” he said. Without revealing the actual amount that he poured into Hyperloop One, he acknowledged the need for a transportation service of this speed capability. “There are consumers, for instance, that would love to go from London to Edinburgh in roughly 45 minutes.”
The last round of funding for Hyperloop One reported a month ago amounted to $85 million apart from money raised in previous rounds. With the investment from the Virgin Group, the company, now called Virgin Hyperloop One, has a current valuation at more $700 million.
The way Hyperloop One was pitched earlier this year matched the kind of entrepreneurial vision that Branson his famous for. He has always envisioned the Virgin Group as being “known for disruption and investing in innovative companies.”
“With Virgin Hyperloop One, passengers and cargo will be loaded into a pod, and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube,” Branson explained. He attributed the pod’s speed in mobility to less aerodynamic drag.
Branson eventually wrote in the press release what really convinced him to invest in Hyperloop One.
“We’re pleased to be working with the co-founders, Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar and President of Engineering Josh Giegel, who previously worked at Virgin Galactic.” Ironically, the original hyperloop was based on a white paper drafted by Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX - Virgin Galactic’s direct competitor for spacecraft supremacy.