After a long career, many of us feel the need to help future generations find success. It seems that age might not be a requirement. At 26, Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark Trucks, didn’t want to wait years to show appreciation to those who had helped him achieve early success. “I’m really grateful to the people that have helped me along the way,” explains Rodrigues.
“From those involved with the first robotics team I was on who coached me and those companies who let us work at their expensive CNC labs, to a GPS company that took a bet on us when we asked to use their system for our golf cart. I wanted to say thank you to all of them and felt paying it forward was the best way to do that.”
To show that gratitude on March 16, 2020, he announced that he would forgo his salary and bonus in 2022 and use those funds to launch Little Robots, a grant fund dedicated to youth robotics and STEM education.
Rodrigues’ career has been closely tied to robotics. As a student at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, he and two friends had an idea for self-driving vehicles and so build an autonomous golf cart as a prototype. That led to their acceptance into Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley tech incubator. While at the incubator they began to develop software that allowed trucks to drive autonomously.
“It was a hard choice to leave college to pursue this dream, but I felt that the window of opportunity would pass if I waited,” says Rodrigues. Turns out his gamble paid off. Rodrigues became one of the youngest CEOs of a public company at age 26. His company, Embark Trucks, employs over 200 people, and partners with shippers and carriers that represent over 38,000 trucks. In 2021 it went public through a SPAC merger and now holds a value of US$4 billion.