“Richard Branson-backed” hyperloop startup seeks funding on Bucharest's SeedBlink

“Richard Branson-backed” hyperloop startup seeks funding on Bucharest's SeedBlink
Swisspod Technologies is developing a fully-electric capsule that travels at near-sonic speeds. / Swisspod
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest April 19, 2024

Swisspod Technologies, a startup founded by Romanian Denis Tudor and Cyril Dénéréaz, announced they seek to raise €200,000 on SeedBlink as part of a total funding round of €7mn, to finance further finance research into hyperloop technology – an innovative, yet controversial technology in its early stage of development.

Seedblink says Swisspod “captured the interest of Richard Branson”, but this was long before Virgin Hyperloop (later renamed Hyperloop One), which Branson financed and headed as chairman, went bankrupt in December 2023. 

SpaceX organised for a period (2017-2019) a contest open to hyperloop startups, where EPFLoop team of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne led by Tudor ranked second in 2018 and 2019.

Swisspod claims the fundraising round has already attracted co-investments from players such as Charlie Holding, Polysys Industries and an exclusive circle of business angels. 

However, Abu Dhabi-based Polysys Industries’ sole investment is in a prior round of Swisspod (of unspecified size) while the financial involvement of Charlie Holding is unknown as well. ICM.com, the financial vehicle of Charlie Holding owned by Shoaib Abedi, and Swisspod announced in April this year they “forged a partnership to innovate the future of hyperloop”.

Hyperloop One, one of the best well-known and well-funded players in the hyperloop space, declared bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2023.

It was the latest stumble in the tech industry’s attempt to bring life to an idea Elon Musk first put forth in a white paper in 2013. It came after Hyperloop One raised and spent $450mn since its founding in 2014, according to TechCrunch.

The Hyperloop concept is a revolutionary intra-continental passenger and cargo transportation system consisting of an autonomous, fully-electric capsule travelling at near-sonic speeds (1,200 km/h) in a low-pressure environment, with almost no air resistance.

The concept was documented by Musk in a 2013 white paper, where the hyperloop was described as a transportation system using capsules supported by an air-bearing surface within a low-pressure tube. 

The technology faces major issues, though. In the decade since the concept was launched, all hyperloop trials have fallen far short of the concept.

 “There have been no publications of evolutions. The evidence that was available was nothing like the proposed system,” said Manuel Romana, professor of transportation at the School of Civil, Canal and Port Engineers, at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM). 

In 2020, Hyperloop One did its first and only test with human passengers and the speed reached was 172 km/h.

Swisspod says it is currently focusing on developing a hyperloop solution for freight transportation as a pivotal step towards its ultimate goal of making this system accessible for passengers.

Investors and business angels can participate in the funding round through SeedBlink, starting with a minimum investment of €2,500.