What was your very first impression about HYPED?
I joined back in September 2016 at the meeting where Adam was showcasing the journey for both competitions, SpaceX and H1. There were a lot of IFs to go through, and really statistically insignificant chances of getting the best of all worlds. But somehow we made through every single step on the slides back then (since winning SpaceX wasn't even imaginable, the goal was getting to the final). So there I felt there was some timid ambition in the room, largely emanating from Adam but confidently spreading onto the new recruits.
Which team are you in? What is your role? Your responsibilities?
I was quickly assumed to be heading the commercial team since I was the only one with the background and with the willpower to face the ambiguity and uncertainty of the object I am dealing with. While last year I was responsible for closely monitoring each part of the commercial analysis we were producing (GIS, demand modelling, social and political context research), this year I have set the vision for the 4 projects (together with Grzegorz, who is head of research: finance, tunelling, regulatory and MaaS) and now oversee the methodological soundness and arrange resources whenever needed (stakeholder engagement in companies, academia, government etc.). Also, I am closely monitoring the commercial opportunities that are tangent to the hyperloop technology to identify what futures directions HYPED as a group could take. Finally, I really care about the wellbeing of the team beyond hustling and hustling and hustling, so I happily take care of socials.
How do you see the future of HYPED?
So far HYPED has been very reactive to its environment - we have responded to competition calls and grasped every single opportunity to engage with the members and the public. HYPED will need to take serious decisions to face the departure onto "adult" life of a significant proportion of its core members. To succeed as an entity independent of academia, one needs to focus on a certain activity, and a focus implies decisions, which imply disaccord. So, it might sound apocalyptic, and I wish to avoid it at all cost, but I see HYPED in a period of turmoil, trying to find its identity, and later on settle and be brilliant at whatever we decide on to do. In short - ask Adam.
How do you see the future of Hyperloop technology? What are your predictions/expectations?
Having no technical background whatsoever, I could only speak of the market. Largely dependent on the success of the UAE enterprise H1 got itself into - so far, the mood is large pessimistic, due to a lack of news and a general sense of disaccord within the company that represents close to 90% of the entire market (if judged by capitalization, the rest going to small start-ups, HTT and Hyper Chariot clowns). The reputation of the entire technology being so closely tight to one company, the market is very very risky and in my opinion, one would be mad crazy to claim money could be made out of doing ONLY hyperloop in the next 20-30 years (actually, I don't believe it will ever be profitable like most transport systems that have POSITIVE wider economic benefits [travel time saved expressed in £ value] BUT largely NEGATIVE financial results [revenue from tickets - cost]). I expect that more and more companies will start agreeing to disagree on the concept and cut out some of the features like Arrivo (no vaccuum, no pods but cars on platforms within city limits only). The larger excitement for me comes from players in Netherlands (HAARDT) and Poland (Hyper Poland), whether they will be able to beat the all-too-shiny engineers of H1 on cost and time of prototype building. Overall exciting research and HUGE commercial opportunities if developing technologies that could serve BOTH hyperloop and existing transport modes (so for instance, any tech that helps to accelerate the implementation (ie building process) itself - think of my usual subsurface surveying spiel - if we can get that right, hyperloop (and other tech) will be here much quicker).
What is the most challenging for you in HYPED?
Knowing how to advise people on stuff you have never done yourself.
What do you like the most about HYPED?
The personality test it puts newcomers through and that 99% of the people that stick do it for the right reasons (rather than i want a leadership position, i deserve it blah blah blah). It's a magnet for special people and maybe that's our core strength.
Your most memorable moment or story in HYPED?
My life was at a rather dramatic point in summer 2017 (i dropped a sweet graduate job offer for an "experimental" PhD, was finishing an internship, moving houses, changing haircuts) and so I decided against going to SpaceX. But beyond SpaceX, guys were invited to Hyperloop One HQ for some special announcement. Given the time difference, the end of the meeting in California time fell somewhat close to 3am at Edinburgh time. It was a call from Emil saying the we have won the Hyperloop One Global Challenge that I lead. Rather than being excited, I said somewhat on the lines of "okay" and went back to sleep, leaving Emil rather disappointed by my reaction, to only question in the morning whether that really happened or not, and then having the quick in of adrenaline and the omg moment.
Has HYPED affected your personality? If so, how?
I am definitely more bold and daring (maybe less humble also, that one being largely an influence of Adam). Definitely I have adopted the "if you don't ask you won't get it" mentality but also the challenge the status quo. I have also grown up to not be affraid of authority - in HYPED, because we are a bunch of students, somehow the big guys in the government are happy to speak to us, and the conversations happen at the same level (have been surprised to have been patronized by an expert only ONCE throughout 1.5year) - so at some point, meeting a director of X and the deputy of Y becomes casual, and eventually the confidence gained allows me to communicate better rather than stutter (so not only my ego, but everyone gains!). Also, I gained friends, some more family that friends (but this goes without saying)
What are the biggest improvements from your point of view?
Funny one - the bureaucratization of HYPED. Generally, whenever you mention the B word, comes to mind slow feedback process, lazy bureaucrats, opportunism. But remember there are tons of benefits (and so far I see only these) - we record meeting notes (which allows to have focused conversations, reaching our goals quicker), we have rules (strongly helps to bring to zero the number of accidents), we have a communication platform (creates a healthy separation between the "social" and the "team" life that wasn't there when all was on facebook). We are also seeing cases when the team has failed a person (or people) and learn from them, incorporating new rules that we thought to be self-evident.