While billionaire Elon Musk remains busy running Tesla and SpaceX, one money-rich startup is stepping up to the plate to bring the fabled Hyperloop one step closer to reality.

A Los Angeles-based business dubbed Hyperloop Technologies announced plans Wednesday to become the first Hyperloop startup, drawing from an $8.5 million stockpile and an expected $80 million funding round later this year. But before bringing Musk’s dream of supersonic human transportation to life, the company intends to focus first on cargo transportation, with a route that spans from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The final product would allow passengers to travel at the speed of a plane for less than the cost of a train ticket.

The dream team behind Hyperloop Technologies consists of Peter Diamandis, founder of the X-prize; Brogan BamBrogan (yes, that's his real name), one of SpaceX’s top engineers; Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Silicon Valley tech startup Palantir; Joe Messina, former White House deputy chief of staff; Shurvin Pichevar, a soon-to-be-billionaire Uber investor and David Sacks, founder of enterprise social network service Yammer. Pichevar plans to personally contribute $40 million during the first funding round.

"Elon felt that if we could prove it could work, even a two- or five-mile prototype, that would overcome any political challenges or regulatory issues," Sacks said in an interview with Forbes. "But we all agreed we had to prove it first with private money." 

To be sure, Hyperloop Technologies founders aren't the only entrepreneurs trying their hand at building a supersonic train. In August 2013, Musk shared the 58-page white paper detailing his plans for a vacuum-powered transportation tube concept that could transport passengers and vehicles from Los Angeles to San Francisco at 760 miles per hour. The Hyperloop could soon become its own industry with two other groups vying to develop their own designs, Forbes reports.

Musk tweeted in January plans to build a Hyperloop test track in Texas, though it remains unclear when the track will actually be built. The project poses countless engineering and economic challenges--for example, defending against earthquakes and weaving through a host of legal issues. Whether Hyperloop Technologies beats Musk to the punch remains to be seen, though it certainly doesn't hurt to have some of the most exciting minds in technology collaborating to build the future of transportation as we know it.

Published on: Feb 11, 2015