At the tender age of 26, Alex Rodrigues became the youngest current CEO of a US-based publicly traded company after the trucking software company he founded, Embark Trucks, went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
Just one day after electric-vehicle manufacturer Rivian’s blockbuster IPO, which gave the auto company a market valuation larger than GM’s, another upstart auto-industry company went public, vaulting a 26-year-old inventor into the ranks of industry titans.
Alex Rodrigues became the youngest current CEO of a US-based publicly traded company on November 11 after the trucking software company he founded, Embark Trucks, went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange—by way of a merger with special purpose acquisition firm Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp II. The pricing put the company’s value at about $5 billion, making Rodrigues worth an estimated $500 million.
Rodrigues co-founded the company in 2016 with Brandon Moak, also 26, a tinkering partner from the engineering program at the University of Waterloo, Canada. As undergraduates, the duo created an autonomous golf cart named Marvin and soon dropped out, moving to San Francisco. School was “a little bit boring,” Rodrigues told Freightwaves, a logistics trade publication. “You learn a lot of math and build very few robots,” he commented. “I wanted to go build more robots.”
Their autonomous golf cart became the starting point for Varden Labs, the precursor to Embark, and Rodrigues earned a Thiel Fellowship. With the two-year $100,000 grant, he and Moak were able to focus on building robots, which, according to Moak, got “larger and larger” until they “landed on self-driving trucks.”
Growing up in suburban Calgary, Rodrigues was widely considered precocious as an inventor; he built his first working robot in seventh grade at the age of 11. Rodrigues mentored one of Canada’s top early robotics teams while a student at Waterloo. He says competitive robotics shaped the approach at Embark, especially when fundraising with big names like Sequoia Capital. “In academia, you’re measured on the novelty of your approach,” he told Freightwaves. “In competition robotics, you’re measured on the performance.”