Virgin Hyperloop One has found a new CEO, and its someone who knows a thing or two about running both big and small transportation systems. Jay Walder, who recently left his position as CEO of bike-share operator Motivate, will become the new chief executive of the futuristic transportation company. Walder will replace Rob Lloyd, who served as CEO for three years. The company also selected a new chairperson to replace Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, who stepped down last month. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of Dubais DP World, was named to that position. Walder is certainly an interesting choice with an impressive résumé. He ran New York Citys Metropolitan Transportation Authority from 2009 to 2011, after helping to overhaul Londons aging mass transit system to global acclaim. His tenure at the MTA was a bit bumpier. He oversaw the installation of countdown clocks and other technological improvements, but also a series of unpopular fare cuts and its worst service cuts in a generation. From there, he went on to run the MTR Corporation, a transportation company based in Hong Kong. In 2014, he joined Motivate as CEO, and led the turnaround of the companys largest bike-share system, Citi Bike in New York City. Launched in 2013, Citi Bike was popular with New Yorkers, yet it was in financial and operational trouble when Walder took over the following year. He re-energized the program with new software, new bicycles, and an expansion that eventually doubled the number of bikes in the system to 12,000. Motivate was acquired by ride-hail giant Lyft in July 2018. The company, which is being renamed Lyft Bikes, is the largest bike-share operator in the country by a wide margin, with franchises in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, among others. I have focused my career on using technology to advance innovation in transportation, so I could not pass up the opportunity to lead the company that has pioneered hyperloop, Walder said in a statement. Walder will oversee Virgin Hyperloop One as it enters its next crucial phase. The company, which aims to reduce travel times by operating carbon-fiber pods through nearly airless tubes at close-to supersonic speeds, has demonstrated its technology at its test site in Nevada. The company now plans to build its first fully operational hyperloop, most likely in India, where the government is interested in constructing a hyperloop in the Pune-Mumbai region. The company is also interested in building a hyperloop in Missouri. (A previous deal to build a hyperloop in Saudi Arabia fell through after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.) Bin Sulayems election as chairperson is less of a surprise. DP World, the global port operator, is on track to become Virgin Hyperloop Ones largest investor. Virgin Hyperloop One aims to transport both people and cargo through its super-fast system.
High-speed futuristic transportation company Virgin Hyperloop One is changing up its leadership. CEO Rob Lloyd has left after three years at the helm and Jay Walder, who ran bike-sharing operator Motivate, is now heading up Virgin Hyperloop One, the company said Thursday. Sir Richard Branson, who stepped down as chairman in October, has been replaced with Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of the United Arab Emirates shipping and logistics company DP World. DP World, which participated in Virgin Hyperloop Ones latest financing round, is now the companys largest investor. DP World first invested in the company in 2016. Earlier this year, the two companies launched a logistics joint venture to develop hyperloop transport for cargo. Walder is also joining the board of directors. Virgin Hyperloop One said that the new senior management team will focus on commercialization, specifically a proposed hyperloop system in India. Walder has a long history in transportation. He most recently ran Motivate, the largest bike-share company in North America. Motivate, which was acquired by Lyft in July, operates bike share programs in New York as CitiBike, in Washington, D.C. as Capital Bikeshare, and in San Francisco as Ford GoBike, among others. Walder helped modernize Londons aging mass transit system as the agencys managing director and then went on to serve as chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York. He later became CEO of MTR Corporation in Hong Kong. I have focused my career on using technology to advance innovation in transportation, so I could not pass up the opportunity to lead the company that has pioneered hyperloop, Walder said in a statement. Virgin Hyperloop One has had a bumpy ride in its short life. The company, which began as Hyperloop One before it was rebranded in October 2017 after Virgins investment, was embroiled in a lawsuit with a co-founder and several employees. The parties reached a settlement in 2016. The company has also lost several executives and board members, including co-founder Shervin Pishevar, who took a leave of absence in December after Bloomberg reported on multiple claims of sexual misconduct. Branson replaced Pishevar, who also stepped down from his venture firm Sherpa Capital. Virgin Hyperloop One has had success as well, raising capital, forming partnerships, conducting feasibility studies and running tests of the high-speed technology. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first proposed the hyperloop — a system of reduced-pressure tubes that would hurtle people and packages long distances at super speeds — in a nearly 60-page public white paper in 2013. Today, the company is focused on its project in India. The government recently declared the Pune-Mumbai hyperloop project as a public infrastructure project with international consortium DP World and Virgin Hyperloop One. The Virgin Hyperloop One-DP World consortium must now wait and see if it will be awarded a concession for the project. If it is, the company expects to start construction on the 11 km test loop in 2019. When completed, hyperloop can reduce the travel time between Mumbai and Pune from about 4 hours to 25 minutes, according to Virgin Hyperloop One.