- Virgin Hyperloop laid off more than 100 employees on Friday, the Financial Times first reported.
- The move will allow it to focus on cargo transport instead of passenger travel, the company said.
- The shift in focus has previously led to internal conflict at the company.
Virgin Hyperloop fired almost half of its employees on Friday as it pivots away from passenger travel to freight.
The futuristic transportation company confirmed with the Financial Times that 111 people were laid off. The company told the FT the layoffs would help the company focus on delivering cargo through its hyperloop pods, which are jetted through vacuum tubes at more than 600 mph.
The layoffs were announced over video conference, and the scale of the cuts was “not expected,” two people who lost their jobs told the FT.
Virgin Hyperloop was founded as Hyperloop Technologies in 2014, stemming from Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s idea of a high-speed passenger pod transport. It changed its name when Richard Branson joined the board of directors in 2017.
Virgin Hyperloop, which has raised around $450 million in funding, is the only company of its kind to have completed a successful passenger ride using the technology.
The company is now “changing direction” due to global supply chain issues and “all the changes due to Covid,” Virgin Hyperloop told the Financial Times, adding that there was a strong customer interest in a cargo-based service.
DP World, a logistics provider owned by the Dubai government and majority stakeholder in Virgin Hyperloop, began working on a cargo system using the company’s hyperloop technologies in 2020.
But the pivot from passenger transport to freight triggered doubt and internal turmoil at the company. Morale reportedly plummeted when Virgin Hyperloop co-founder and chief technology officer Josh Giegel left the company last year. Many other executives also quit the company following Giegel’s departure.
The layoffs and upheaval also come at a time when Virgin Hyperloop is reportedly considering a merger with a
, or special purpose acquisition company, two people with knowledge of the company’s strategy told the FT. Virgin Hyperloop, Virgin Group, and DP World did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.