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Friday Tech Blitz: Building the Hyperloop… Twitter Chief Readies Another IPO… A Robot Rings the Bell

No prizes for guessing the biggest tech story this week…

The Twitter (TWTR) IPO, of course.

Which is why I’m going to avoid it here! This is the “Blitz,” after all, and the story is already being beaten to death in the national and international media.

Besides, my colleague, Marty Biancuzzo, already gave you two safer ways to play Twitter, plus a savvy “backdoor” play.

But I’ll say this: I’ve heard some people already labeling Twitter a “successful” launch. Gotta love IPO hype! It was a successful first day. Let’s not pass a verdict just yet, eh?

Anyway, instead of Twitter hype, let’s talk about another kind of hype – the Hyperloop…

An Important Step in the Hyperloop Journey

The Hyperloop is Elon Musk’s bold vision for the future of transportation. Namely, blasting people to their destinations in capsules within pressure tubes that are at, or near, a vacuum. As a result, it cranks up speed and slashes travel time.

(Musk co-founded PayPal and is co-founder and CEO of electric car maker, Tesla Motors [TSLA], and space exploration firm, SpaceX).

I’ve talked about this in-depth before – both the concept of “tube travel” and our verdict on Musk’s Hyperloop design, which detailed how trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco would take just 30 minutes at speeds of 800 mph.

Naturally, a project this large and complex has plenty of skeptics. But no good innovation is ever easy, which is why Musk made his design open source and invited help in developing, funding and building the Hyperloop.

One firm just stepped up to the plate.

Engineering startup Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is working on development, operation and organization of a working Hyperloop. It was founded by Dr. Marco Villa, former mission control director at SpaceX and Dr. Patricia Galloway, ex-president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

They’ve used their clout to agree important partnerships with the likes of computer simulation firm, Ansys (ANSS) and UCLA’s Architecture & Urban Design department.

Many of HTT’s employees are forward-thinking scientists and engineers, exchanging their time for equity in HTT, as the company works on the myriad of technical, environmental, social, political and financial aspects for the Hyperloop.

Next spring, HTT will start looking for sites where it can test a scale model one-tenth of the size of the proposed Hyperloop. The goal is to have a scale model by early 2015.

Twitter Chief Has Another IPO in the Works

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Twitter today. And I won’t. But co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey has another potential IPO up his sleeve.

Dorsey is also CEO of Square – the company that makes the cool credit card reader that attaches to mobile devices and allows vendors to process payments on the spot, plus a cash register app for the iPad. It’s proved very popular with small business owners.

How popular? Well, Square expects processed payments to top $20 billion this year, leading to revenue of $550 million. In 2014, sales are projected to hit $1 billion, as Square’s processed payments rise to $30 billion. However, The Wall Street Journal reports that “70% to 80% of that revenue gets kicked back to credit card companies,” which would put this year’s sales figure between $110 million and $165 million.

Still, Dorsey is considering taking Square public next year, too. With $200 million raised last year, it valued the company at $3.25 billion, and Dorsey has apparently sounded out Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) about getting involved in an IPO.

The problem? Like Twitter, Square is currently unprofitable. But with backers including Virgin entrepreneur, Richard Branson and Yahoo! (YHOO) CEO, Marissa Mayer, Dorsey could be set for another high-profile launch.

The Closing Bell… Robot-Style

Mark your diary for 4:00 PM next Tuesday.

Obviously, it will signal the close of trading on the U.S. markets. But the Nasdaq exchange will do so in a unique way.

For the first time ever, a human will not ring the closing bell. Instead, a robot will do the honors. Specifically, Universal Robots’ UR5.

The occasion will mark the growing influence of robotics in our lives and the launch of the first robotics-based stock index – the Robo-Stox. According to Forbes, it will be the “first index to benchmark the value of robotics, automation and related technologies.”

Alas, a robot has yet to figure out a way to bring me a beer! Speaking of which, that’s a wrap for this edition of the “Blitz.”

Enjoy the weekend,

Martin Denholm

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

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