In 20 years at Cisco Systems Inc., Rob Lloyd helped sell technology for data pipes. Now he plans to help make a different kind of pipe to transport people and products.
The former Cisco president on Wednesday was named chief executive of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc., a Los Angeles startup formed to try to realize a radical transportation concept proposed by Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk. The startup is developing special tubes, air compressors, electric motors and “HyperPods”–akin to train cars–for moving cargo or passengers at speeds of more than 700 miles an hour.
Musk’s Hyperloop vision was greeted with considerable skepticism from public officials and others when it was proposed in a 2013 white paper. Mr. Lloyd said he was convinced to take the job by the the technical talent at the startup and by the progress its engineers have made to date.
“They are going to make it happen,” he said.
Hyperloop’s chief technology officer and co-founder is Brogan BamBrogan, who worked on the Falcon 1 rocket at Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX. Its chairman and co-founder is Shervin Pishevar, a well-known venture capitalist who is managing director of Sherpa Ventures. Mr. Musk is not directly involved in the company.
The company on Wednesday also announced that Emily White, who was most recently COO at Snapchat, is becoming an advisor and board observer.
Hyperloop has raised about $10 million to date and is in the process of trying to raise $80 million more, Mr. Lloyd said. That money should allow Hyperloop to build a two-mile test loop in the Los Angeles area to prove its technology works, he said.
Besides potential technical challenges, Hyperloop faces a host of other hurdles, including getting government approval for construction, finding rights of way and funding for complete transportation projects. One advantage of the Hyperloop concept, Mr. Lloyd said, is that its transportation tubes could be placed underground, under water, on land or suspended above it.
He expects that some other countries might be the first to adopt the technology, in view of simpler regulatory systems than in the United States. “We are seeing inbound interest from all sort of countries around the world,” Mr. Lloyd said.
The 59-year-old Mr. Lloyd was widely considered the front-runner to succeed John Chambers, Cisco’s longtime CEO. Instead, Cisco’s board in May settled on veteran sales specialist Chuck Robbins, who took that post in July.
Mr. Lloyd said it wasn’t a hard decision to leave the world of networking equipment for transportation. “The boldness of the vision is intoxicating,” he said.