How Hyperloop One is Winning a Transportation Trifecta: Engineering, Insight, and Leadership
Malik Amahd

Elon Musk is a busy man, juggling efforts to try to reach Mars, build out Tesla, expand Solar City, and raise five children. This didn’t stop him, however, from coming up with the revolutionary idea of the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop concept he developed is a 750 mile per hour transportation tunnel and integrated structure that aims to move passengers and cargo between two points immediately, safely, efficiently, and sustainably.

Initially outlined in a white paper, Musk made his Hyperloop idea open source. Shervin Pishevar, an entrepreneur, super angel, and venture capitalist who is most famous for being an early major investor in Uber, saw an opportunity in the Hyperloop idea. Pishevar partnered with former SpaceX employee, Brogan BamBrogan, and convinced him to drop a project he was working on to become a co-founder of the new company.

Leveraging his political connections from being an active participant in global and domestic initiatives, Pishevar was able to secure a face to face meeting with President Obama, to see if the idea was feasible, and if the United States government would support the project.

Obama and his engineers verified that the idea was feasible.

Pishevar then focused on adding a third person to the dream team. He was able to recruit 20 year Cisco veteran Rob Lloyd, through a series of text messages.

Yes, text messages.

With Lloyd on board to be CEO, and armed with the Hyperloop concept and a clear vision in mind, Pishevar, BamBrogan, and Lloyd opened up shop in a garage.

Fast forward to May 10th 2016, coincidentally the anniversary of the 1869 launch of the Transcontinental Railroad, and Hyperloop One is holding a Private Press Conference in Las Vegas. They were gathered to discuss the highly anticipated first public, open-air propulsion test of the Hyperloop technology.

Hyperloop Tech revealed a name change to Hyperloop One and announced the closing of 80 million in series B funding. They also released information about their Global One Challenge, an international contest asking for ideas on how to best implement the company’s Hyperloop technology.

Hundreds of people gathered over two humid days in Las Vegas, to learn more about how the Hyperloop technology worked first hand from its founders. It became clear how the guidance and leadership of Hyperloop’s founders-Shervin Pishevar, Rob Lloyd, and Brogan BamBrogan, was helping the company to accelerate and maintain growth.

Hyperloop One’s rate of growth is matching the speed at which they are developing their technology. The core team has grown from 3 to 150 people in only one month. This type of hyper-expansion can come with growing pains in hiring the right people, maintaining company culture, and managing growth of teams with diverse personalities and varied technical skills. Hyperloop One’s leadership is employing some specific tactics that is allowing the company to secure funding sources and global partners, all while creating and maintaining a unique company culture.

Engaging in conversation with Hyperloop One employees and senior management levels, brought to light 6 key elements for aspiring tech startups when it comes to sparking and maintaining such rapid growth.

Distributed leadership:
Leadership must help to define the right balance between a company’s culture and productivity. Being too overbearing can create imbalance and dissent, where as loose leadership can create inefficiencies. From the top, Pishevar and Lloyd bring insight, credibility, and firm leadership. BamBrogan has his focus on building rapport by leading with a hands on approach, working extremely close with the engineers. Opposite in functions and complimentary in actions, the three have created a dynamic trio that makes for the right balance between firm and friendly leadership.

Empower your employees to have influence in the hiring process:
Typically, managers are in charge of hiring decisions. What we found extremely impressive about the leaders of Hyperloop One, was how they enable their front line employees to be a crucial part of the hiring process. We learned that new hires sometimes go through a dozen or more interviews with various employees before the decision is made to bring them onboard. This is far from what would be expected in corporate America. “Being part of the hiring process, makes me feel like I have influence in the direction and future of the company. It’s empowering,” says Helen Durden, Senior Structural Analysis Engineer. This is crucial to sustainable growth, scalability, and a key component of the Hyperloop culture.

Empower the team:
Every Hyperloop One employee understands their value and importance in the chain of command. Their top leaders are empowering all employees to be the next leaders of the company as they grow and push forward. When positioning your company for growth, realize that your bottom line employees will soon have to manage new hires below them. Keeping everyone feeling appreciated is a way that Hyperloop One has helped to maintain their expanding workforce.

Engineering towards timed goals:
Hyperloop One’s fast growth and large team has reached incredible milestones in a very short amount of time. In talking with engineers about how they managed to meet such deadlines, it was clear that they are doing something now unique to Hyperloop. Sometimes the best business strategies are simple. Hyperloop One sets aggressive, specific, and time sensitive company goals. With a deadline, employees find the resources needed and collaborate with a hyper-focus on the established goals. Don’t be afraid to set aggressive goals for your company and team.

Eating lunch together:
Hyperloop One even is strategic about how they eat lunch. Every day, the company caters lunch, so that employees can eat together. That have made eating a ritual to check-in and strategize. Rethink lunch as an opportunity to create closer relationships and get leaders and employees talking and learning from each other. Informal conversations build rapport with employees and can lessen the stress associated with interacting with top management.

Hyperloop One is a unique startup that is positioned to disrupt the transportation industry.

You have a chance to join the Hyperloop One team by entering the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, a first-of-its-kind competition.

What: Help to identify and select locations around the world with the potential to develop and construct the world’s first hyperloop networks. The Hyperloop One Global Challenge is not an engineering competition: they bring the technology, you tell them how it should be used in your location.

When: The contest ends September 15th, 2016

How: Form a team anywhere on Earth and put forward a comprehensive commercial, transport, economic, and policy case for your cities, regions, or countries to be considered to host the first hyperloop networks.

More details on the Global Challenge here