One of the longest-running hyperloop startups is reportedly shutting its doors. Hyperloop One, once backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, will cease operations on December 31 according to Bloomberg News.
It’s the latest stumble in the tech industry’s attempt to bring life to an idea Elon Musk first put forth in a white paper in 2013. And it comes after Hyperloop One raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars since its founding in 2014.
The original pitch for the hyperloop sounds like a zero interest rate fever dream: build lengthy vacuum-sealed tubes for shipping people and goods at super-high speeds. Aside from a handful of tech demos and test tracks, though, the idea still hasn’t taken off.
Hyperloop One itself went through multiple mutations, including an ugly legal fight between its co-founders. It took on the name Virgin Hyperloop One after Branson invested in 2017. But when Branson criticized Saudi Arabia following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, the Kingdom pulled a planned project with the startup, and the billionaire stepped down as chairman.
Dubai port operator DP World wound up with majority control of the startup, and pivoted its focus to cargo in early 2022, cutting half the staff at the time and dropping the Virgin moniker. DP World will wind up with Hyperloop One’s intellectual property, Bloomberg reports, while the rest of its hard assets — including a test track outside Las Vegas and other machinery — will be sold off.