The Hyperloop is sort of aspirational bullet train that will travel faster than the speed of sound inside a vacuum-sealed tube. Elon Musk first suggested it back in 2012 as an entirely new fifth form of transport. The idea struck a chord with a German/American entrepreneur named Dirk Ahlborn, who decided to make it happen. They've now crowd-sourced enough money to begin construction on a 5 mile prototype along the main freeway linking San Francisco to LA.
As a software developer and entrepreneur, Bibop G. Gresta might seem like an unusual choice to head up an engineering project. At the age of 15 he was managing a development department for an Italian software company, before forming his own interactive media company in the mid-90s. Now after a series of start-ups, and dabbling in acting, Bebop has become the COO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. He's an eccentric, high-powered thinker and we were keen to catch up while he's here spruiking Hyperloops in Australia.
VICE: Hey Bibop. So how did a software developer become involved in building the Hyperloop?
Bibop Gresta: I met Dirk Ahlborn, who was doing an event in LA. He approached me and said he wanted to do the Hyperloop. I looked at him and said listen man, you're a very creative person and you're smart but this is crazy . He said please, I'll send you some documents, read them and call me back . I didn't even think about opening them. They just sat on my desk for a month.
When I finally looked at who was supporting the project there was all these scientists, hundreds of names. So I called up a few to talk through what they were doing and I had a sort of revelation. So now I've become the COO. I'm the connection between all the ideas and the execution. We've finished the feasibility study, and we have hired 520 engineers, scientists, and designers from 42 countries and we're going build the first full-scale prototype, transporting 10 million people each year.
Ok but again, you're a programmer. How are you suited for this kind of job?
When you have 70 companies and you're spaced from media to hotels and amusement parks, you're creating the base to build any start-up. I'm not pretending to be God but I've seen it all. In reality I don't think the best entry for engineering projects are engineers because really, engineers are religious people. Engineers don't think they need openness and radical inclusion.
So what is it that's better about your way of thinking that's better?
I'm much more similar to the mythological creature Janus, a man with two faces, one looking at the future and one looking at the past. I think we should shape the future by using technology that is present or used in the past. I'm excited about building our future from consolidated bricks coming from our past.
Do you ever worry the Hyperloop won't work?
Being an entrepreneur means bypassing fear. It's one of the elements you learn to bypass and actually this is probably the simplest project I've done. Technology-wise, all the components have been around for a long time, we're just putting them together in a new way. It's more complicated to explain what it is than to actually build it.
But it's possible that when it's built, insufficient numbers of people will use it?
I don't foresee that being a problem. Honestly the only real problems I foresee are issues with politics and regulation. Aside from that I've been in 56 countries in the last seven months. We're now in Australia as part of the world tour, but in every country see the same thing over and over again, people waiting and want to contribute. It's amazing how many people want to get involved and join the team.
I'm wondering, what is the secret of being you? What have you learnt about getting shit done?
First of all it's not about me, it's the team. And the second thing I've learned, is to never stop learning. You have to continuously willing to learn and to be strange. Never conform to what people think is normal and traditional. And I'm not saying that just for the sake of it; you need to be a human who challenges themselves.
Another thing to remember is to learn and listen. Especially to the people you don't like. The worst thing you can do is just work with people you like but that's when you don't learn, you just surround yourself with others who are like you. Always try to challenge yourself with the people you hate because they'll help you to grow more if you show your weaknesses and contradictions.
So you're in Australia. Why?
I have some cool stuff to show like what we are building and how we're building it. But we're also here because a thing like a Hyperloop suits Australia perfectly. You have the perfect country in terms of population and distance between cities. It can be five years away and if the politicians are on board it can happen.
Bibop is also speaking at Pause Fest in Melbourne between February 8 - 14.
Follow Julian on Twitter.