Pando

Despot, can you spare a dime?

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on September 7, 2016

From The Disruption Desk

If you haven’t yet read Oliver Franklin-Wallis’ profile of Hyperloop for Wired UK then I urge, absolutely urge, you to.

If only for the anecdotes about the company’s hapless co-founder (and Pando investor) Shervin Pishevar:

He would often post pictures partying with celebrity acquaintances: Miley Cyrus; Justin Bieber; he and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with Kanye West. An earnest sharer, he has been known to post his own poetry…. Some thought Pishevar wasn’t taking the company seriously. When he did drop by Hyperloop One, he would sometimes bring guests who seemed out of place for a transportation startup: Katy Perry, will.i.am. Once, early on, he arrived with a live pig.

Paging Toby Young.

Comedy aside, the piece is remarkable for the background it offers into Pishevar’s infamous pitch meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. I wrote about the meeting here on Pando, urging Pishevar and other Pando investors to maybe spend a little less time palling around with despots.

Apparently I didn’t know the fucking half of it:

Pishevar was in St Petersburg at the city’s Economic Forum, an annual gathering for the global elite hosted by President Putin…  In a grand ballroom at the Konstantinovsky Palace, Pishevar pitched the hyperloop to Putin and the heads of China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s sovereign wealth funds.

Yuh. Not only was Pishevar sucking up to Putin, but he was also pitching the human rights abusing Chinese and Saudis for their cash too.  

The dictators-as-investors model isn’t unique to Hyperloop, obviously. Pishevar’s other portfolio star, Uber, also recently took money from the same torturous regimes. But in Uber’s case that money was very, very late stage cash after basically everyone else in the planet had invested. For Hyperloop to be chasing blood money so early is doubly shocking -- it suggests the company is already struggling to find mainstream backers, especially amongst the Silicon Valley firms you might think would be lining up to back an Elon Musk idea.  

Indeed a glance at Hyperloop One’s investor list shows just one major Valley firm -- Khosla Ventures -- amongst a gaggle of Eniacs and Partechs and Tekton Ventures-es. This despite Pishevar boasting of his mad fundraising skillz. Per Wired:

Pishevar pitched the idea: BamBrogan would build the technology, Pishevar would take care of the money. 

Where then are the Sequoias? The Andreessen Horowitzes? The Kleiners? The Accels? And, by the way, where the buggery fuck is Elon Musk? (Musk couldn’t even bring himself to comment for the Wired piece.)

Indeed, as of yet even the murderers apparently remain uncommitted.  One amusing name I did spot on the investor list: Tinder co-founder and alleged sexual harasser Justin Mateen has money in the company.

A live pig, indeed.