For a business plan, Hyperloop Technologies picked one nothing short of outlandish: Take the sci-fi pipe dream of a tubular transit system that can nearly match the speed of sound, and make it a reality. For a chief executive, however, it is going with practical over panache.
The transit startup, led by early Uber backer Shervin Pishevar and former SpaceX engineer Brogan BamBrogan, has selected as its first CEO Rob Lloyd, a veteran global operative of the networking giant Cisco Systems. The appointment signals Hyperloop Tech’s plans to persuade governments and businesses to support its futuristic infrastructure — and its plans to expand beyond the U.S.
“This will be an enterprise relationship business,” Lloyd told Re/code. “We’ll be building partnerships with transportation systems. A large part of the success of Hyperloop’s technology is going to be maintaining a complex ecosystem.”
It’s also, the startup believes, a very lucrative one. According to Hyperloop Tech, the potential market enabled by moving people and things at heretofore unimagined speeds is $154 trillion over the next 20 years. A larger market than the one he left, Lloyd said: “This is a very disruptive opportunity. In fact, it’s bigger than networking.”
Along with Lloyd, the company is also bringing on Emily White, the former Google and Facebook exec who left her brief stint as Snapchat COO in March. White joins a board of directors stacked with tech luminaries, including Pishevar, former PayPal COO David Sacks and Palantir founder Joe Londsdale, along with Jim Messina, the ex-deputy chief of staff to President Obama.
The idea for a hyperloop first appeared in 2013 at the All Things D conference, where Elon Musk, at Pishevar’s behest, detailed the system. Musk later released a white paper of its design, but said he was too busy with his trio of companies to launch it. Pishevar et al. leapt in. As did another company, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and, according to reports, Musk’s own SpaceX.
Lloyd said Musk is not involved with Hyperloop Tech, but the company has his blessing.
The incoming CEO spent 21 years at Cisco, including three years as its president, during which he was considered both a key lieutenant to Chambers and a serious contender to succeed him.
He left when Cisco’s board tapped Chuck Robbins as CEO in June. A native of Canada, he began his career with Cisco in the mid-1990s as Cisco’s general manager in that country. He spent a decade running Cisco’s operations in Europe and then North America before taking charge of worldwide operations in 2009.
He will need to lean on that global experience. Lloyd said Hyperloop Tech’s revenue model will involve a mixture of travel and cargo, relying on public-private partnerships with cash-strapped governments. It will also look abroad, turning to nations like China and India that are eager for new transit infrastructure. “It’s a global opportunity,” he said.
And it’s an opportunity that the U.S. may miss. Despite having a former Obama operative on board, Hyperloop Tech is likely to meet the same legislative blockades Obama faced with his high-speed rail plans. The startup is keeping its options open. “This will play out for those who move quickly and who take advantage of this economic capability that we bring,” Lloyd said.
Asked if that meant other countries will see the system before the U.S., Lloyd hedged. “We’ll get there,” he said.
The company, which currently has 50 employees and is based in Los Angeles, is in the process of raising an $80 million Series B round. It plans to a have a two-mile test loop ready to show off to enterprise partners and governments by the end of 2016 or early 2017.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.