How I Made It

Tackling an enormous problem? Sometimes it helps to be a little crazy

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Chief Operating Officer Bibop Gresta says that between him and his business partner German entrepreneur Dirk Ahlborn, he's the crazier one.

Ahlborn was the one who pitched Gresta the idea of building Elon Musk's Hyperloop by starting their own venture that would crowdsource hundreds of scientists working part-time on the project.

Musk proposed the Hyperloop as a faster and cheaper alternative to the high-speed rail approved in California. His concept involved propelling a passenger pod through a vacuumed tube, maximizing efficiency by minimizing air resistance.

Gresta was initially hesitant about getting involved with the project. He said that the feasibility of the project was as likely as him, an Italian, becoming a U.S. president.

But Ahlborn persisted, forwarding Musk's proposal to Gresta with comments from NASA and Boeing saying they would support the project. Gresta called Ahlborn and told him, "Listen, you are crazy, but I think I'm crazier and we're going to do it."

Today, Gresta, 44, marvels at HTT's progress from feasibility study stage to construction in just a few years, something he said wouldn't have been possible for a more traditionally structured company.

HTT's platform allows more than 520 scientists from 42 countries to contribute to the project with a minimum commitment of 10 hours a week. Gresta said people have donated $60 million to HTT without the company actively asking for funding.

HTT expects that its Hyperloop will reach a top speed of 760 miles per hour, just below the speed of sound. Gresta said this should shorten the commute between Los Angeles and San Francisco to just over 30 minutes, and it all could become reality by 2018.

Bibop Gresta.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Bibop Gresta.

The success of the Hyperloop could disrupt several industries and positively impact society, said Gresta. For example, he said, it would make it possible for organs to reach patients more quickly.

Gresta is passionate about Hyperloop and says the business of "moving passengers is very sexy because it influences all of our lives."

"In some cities you lose two, three years of your life by living there because right now traffic is becoming a big problem, in terms of health," he added.

"I've never seen anything like this, honestly, and that's the demonstration that when humanity comes together to solve our biggest problem, they do it. No matter what," Gresta said.