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Branson’s Hyperloop Hopes to Blaze Across India

Think back to your long-ago days as a mischievous elementary school student, waiting until you are outside of the teacher’s field of vision, rolling up a carefully measured strip of paper torn from your composition book, and then applying the perfect amount of saliva. You insert the newly assembled projectile into a straw you had smuggled from the lunchroom like an industrious prisoner in maximum security, and you take a deep breath right before launching your payload. If you paused at that moment, considering the physics of the act instead of executing the attention-grabbing act of flirtation masked as simple insubordination, you might have made a very lucrative discovery. You would have had at least a basic understanding of a concept that serves as the foundation for the future of long-distance travel.

‍This comparison, as it involves the hostile use of spitballs, is perhaps an unsavory one. It also might not be relatable for those who, as young children, didn’t favor rascally antics over phonics and arithmetic the way I did. For a more tasteful analogy, let’s pivot to a different visual I have used before. At the bank drive-through, and in all types of business offices in the pre-instant messaging days, a system of pneumatic tubes was commonly employed. Interoffice memos, deposit receipts, and sometimes (as I recall from the back seat of the family station wagon) lollipops were placed into a cartridge roughly the size of a tennis ball can. That cartridge would then be inserted into an opening in the tube. The sender would close the hatch, and the payload is whisked at startling speed toward the recipient, aided by the force of a vacuum within the tube. Imagine that concept applied to a delivery system proportionally magnified a few hundred times, and you have a general idea of how Virgin Hyperloop One works.

‍In truth, naturally, Virgin’s technology is substantially more complex.

‍Hyperloop Technologies was founded by Elon Musk about six years ago. In October 2017, following the announcement of a strategic partnership with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, the current name of Virgin Hyperloop One was established. Earlier this month, Iron Edge told you all about the genius of “love-him-or-hate-him” Musk’s advancements at SpaceX (Tesla, SpaceX, and the Best Hotels on Mars, February 6, 2020). With this fresh in our minds, we would be intensely challenged to suggest a better tech pedigree than that of Richard Branson and Elon Musk. With chops like these, Virgin Hyperloop One attracts the “planetary masters of their art”, whether the “art” is computer engineering, aerospace and aerodynamic technology, mechanical design, motor systems, or rocket engineering. The ever-growing team of the best and the brightest puts this company in a remarkably advantageous position as it rapidly advances the science of propulsion.

‍The tubes that Virgin Hyperloop One use are a low-pressure environment that promotes faster and smoother propulsion. To get the passenger pods moving, the Hyperloop team has perfected the science of magnetic levitation — a network of magnets and tracks that speeds the pods along at a velocity equivalent to that of a jetliner. The difference is that Hyperloop can transport people and cargo much more efficiently and at a dramatically lower pollution level than any airplane can. The pods consume very little energy and they expend no direct carbon emissions. Zero emissions. Zilch. Nada. Futurists, travel enthusiasts, and environmentalists: unite and rejoice! And you, too, will rejoice when you watch this YouTube video that provides a thorough explanation of how the Hyperloop works… and rejoice extra-hard as you realize that Iron Edge has access to pre-IPO shares of this futuristic marvel.

‍A couple of years ago, Virgin signed an “intent agreement” with the government of the Maharashtra state of India to build a hyperloop transportation system between Mumbai and Pune. The appeal to the state was that the hyperloop would have cut an hour and fifteen-minute trip by car or conventional train down to a thirteen-minute jaunt. The project was given the green light last summer. Unfortunately, it experienced a setback amid changes in the Maharashtra government. The state’s Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar stated, “We do not have the capacity to experiment with the hyperloop. We will concentrate on other modes of transport and, in the meantime, if that technology develops more with successful trials abroad, we can think about it”.

‍In other words, Richard Branson and Elon Musk’s plan would be put on ice until the company gains proof of concept elsewhere. What’s an ambitious billionaire to do? Branson’s solution was to modify expectations. In his case, though, it made more sense to aim higher — or almost eight times longer in distance — than to scale things down.  Branson took his dream from the state level to the national stage early last week when he met with India’s Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari. The gist of Branson’s message? “Okay, Nitin, let’s forget all about that little Pune project. After all, that would only have taken your people about 91 miles. Let’s treat them with the big 715-mile journey, practically clear across India, between Mumbai and New Delhi”.  Many loyal Iron Edge newsletter readers have a great knowledge of Indian geography, but for our American friends: this route is almost precisely the distance between New York and Chicago. The fascinating part is that this span is projected to be traveled by Hyperloop in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Even more impressive than beating the airlines from a timing perspective, the Hyperloop system will run at a cost, frequency, and efficiency more akin to those of your typical subway system.

‍It should be said that this is a story in an early phase. Branson’s encounter with Gadkari was a preliminary discussion, and it will need to be followed by a more formal proposal. If the idea gains momentum, though, and zips through the approvals of the powers that be with the velocity of a Hyperloop pod, the world will have an undeniable example of the best way to connect a powerful country’s national capitol with its financial capitol. Next to this one, New York to Washington would be a layup (and a much-welcomed end to layovers)..

We especially admire Branson’s approach of addressing an obstacle by changing course and shooting for something more difficult. While some may view Branson and Musk’s strategy with some measure of doubt, we would ask those skeptics the following question: “Which ones among you are the billionaires?”

Shares of Virgin Hyperloop One are, as of today, not available on the public markets. We at Iron Edge VC, on the other hand, can get you in the door right now, establishing your ownership ahead of everybody else. If you would like to learn more, or if you know of anybody else who would, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking “Get in Touch” below.

‍As always, shares are available on a first come, first served basis.

5f6e0d464e388c4975685025 Paul Min

Paul Maguire

Founder And Managing Partner