Born Gabriele, Italian Bibop Gresta adopted the new alias from a young age, when he became famous in his native country as a rapper and MTV host. He soon discovered his business vocation but kept the artistic name. Thus, Bibop founded business incubator Digital Magics, giving rise to more than 70 startups, and became the youngest director at Telecom Italia.
Now, he intends to revolutionize transportation around the globe. The plan is to transport people inside capsules, known as pods. It’s not a new idea – we’ve seen this before in James Bond movies and The Jetsons. Even way before that, in the early 1900’s, when cars and underground train systems were a novelty, people debated this type of transportation as a travel method of the (then) future. The father of modern rockets, Robert Goddard, also researched the technology.
Recently, the concept gained a new breath of life. In 2013, business magnate Elon Musk – an advocate of electric cars and space travel, and founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX – released a whitepaper on the matter. Musk was hoping to avoid the State of California to invest US$ 68 billion on a high-speed train as according to him, pressurized capsules in a tube could transport 30 people in a 36-minute trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, in a US$ 6 billion project.
Busy with other endeavors, Musk decided that the Hyperloop technology concept would be open source, so other entrepreneurs could further develop it. One of them was German scientist Dirk Ahlborn, who invited Bibop Gresta to create the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. The Italian then became the concept’s ambassador, advocating the revolution that the technology can promote. The 2018’s World Economic Forum acknowledged the company as a Technology Pioneer.
LogicalisNow – When did you first hear of the Hyperloop technology?
Bibop Gresta – Like many others, I was immediately impacted by SpaceX’s original whitepaper, five years ago. Not long after, I found my business partner in the early stages of what would become the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. After due diligence of the business and the technology, I decided to be part of what was unquestionably something that’d change the rules of mobility.
LN – How do you intend to help developing it?
BG – I have years of experience with technology startups, both in Europe and the US, but Hyperloop is an entirely new field. There isn’t yet a Hyperloop expert. However, we are discovering a whole lot of passionate people willing to combine expertise in efforts to overcome the expert barriers and break new ground.
LN – How different will transportation be in the future?
BG – Currently, transportation systems are terrifying. They’re stressful, expensive, and damaging to the environment. We envision a future where transportation is a subtle part of our lives. As a result, in the future, locomotion should be pleasant, accessible, and sustainable.
LN – How close is this revolution?
BG – In many ways, it’s already here. Companies such as Uber, Lyft, Tesla, and others are changing the world through carpooling options and autonomous vehicles. These things were a distant future only five or ten years ago.
LN – Which means of transportation could the passenger pods replace? Are they best suited for long or short trips?
BG – Hyperloop should become a more appealing alternative not only due to speed but especially efficiency. Soon we’ll move inside big cities and intercity. So, I believe it’s suited for both long and short distances.
LN – What is the investment and the return proposed for the technology development?
BG – The system’s construction and maintenance costs are a fraction of alternatives such as railways. For this reason, the Hyperloop can be profitable within ten years of operations. We are investigating different monetization models to ensure accessible transportation to all.
LN – For many years this technology is contemplated. Why hasn’t it advanced yet?
BG – There were several attempts to build traveling tubes over the centuries, since the 1800’s. But only recently have things like our patented passive magnetic levitation system, or advances in batteries and more efficient vacuum pumps came to be. Then, the entire system was set to be economically justified.
LN – Which are the main obstacle for the technology?
BG – Major concerns are around legal and regulatory frameworks. We took the first big step to solve this by announcing this week that our system will be certified by the highest security standards and completely insured.
LN – What countries are likely to advance more quickly?
BG – Many countries show interest, particularly China, United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine, where we have already signed commercial agreements and are ready to initiate constructions. Politicians, as well as people in general, are both curious and a little skeptical until we present the system designed by our engineers and the economic opportunities it can bring according to viability studies.
LN – What about Brazil?
BG – There are promising opportunities for Hyperloop here. The country already holds our global logistics center, where we develop solutions harnessed worldwide. Moreover, the transportation system would be a game changer. Imagine traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo in a few minutes instead of hours.
LN – How will 21st-century business be different with so much innovation?
BG – As observed throughout history, significant mobility changes are accompanied by significant social changes, both individually and economically. Imagine commuting from Brasilia to Rio faster than having breakfast; or leaving Sao Paulo to visit a friend in Curitiba to have dinner. As the distance between cities reduces significantly, people will be free to choose where to live, to work, and to visit.