Entrepreneur Richard Branson gave a major vote of confidence to Hyperloop One with a major investment in the company -- so major that it evoked a name change. Hyperloop One is rebranding itself as "Virgin Hyperloop One" and adopting Branson's ubiquitous company name. They'll also add Branson to its board of directors.
Branson explained the reasoning in an interview with CNBC.
"As a train owner, I felt this is something that I want to be able to operate," Branson said. "At the moment our trains are limited to 125 miles an hour... There are consumers, for instance, that would love to go from London to Edinburgh in roughly 45 minutes. And that will be possible [with hyperloop]."
CNBC also reported that Hyperloop One raised $85 million in investments and that includes Branson's funding. The Virgin Group founder declined to specify exactly how much of the funding came from him. In total, Hyperloop One has garnered over $245 million in funding and is valued at more than $700 million.
Branson also mentioned similar attractions to the hyperloop idea that others have noted: the ability to get to point A to point B with little hassle and incredibly fast speeds.
"You can have a pod outside your office that you and your colleagues can jump into," he said. "The pod can self-drive to the top of the tunnel. It then goes down the tunnel. It connects up and off you go at 600, 700 miles an hour up to your destination, going faster than an airline."
Hyperloop One Chairman Shervin Pishevar noted that it was Branson's eye for customer satisfaction and enjoyment that he appreciated most.
"The customer experience of the pod is something that we definitely want to lean on Richard's and the Virgin Group's experience to create an experience when you walk into a hyperloop pod," he said. "You should feel comfortable. You should feel like you've been there before. This is not futuristic technology. This is happening now," Pishevar said. "It's [also] green and good for our planet."
The idea for a hyperloop can be traced back to Elon Musk in 2013
Musk put out a challenge to the public to figure out how to travel from San Francisco to LA in just 30 minutes. Since then, several major competitors have stepped up to the plate. The most notable two come down to Hyperloop One and the Boring Company -- Musk's own venture. Initially, Musk wanted to focus on Tesla and SpaceX at the time. A series of tweets in 2016 led to his hyperloop company, and he shocked fans via Twitter by saying he'd build his own hyperloop between New York and Washington D.C.
While Hyperloop One is not affiliated with Musk in a formal business sense, Pishevar notes that Musk developed the idea. However, he's also very clear that as of now, his company has a full-scale hyperloop working. Branson's financial backing and entrepreneurial skills could help the new Virgin Hyperloop One land another major hurdle -- breaking ground on a government-approved project.