From Here to There: JA Nova Scotia Alumni, Brandon Moak
Brandon Moak, CTO and Co-Founder of the self-driving truck company Embark Trucking, credits the start of his business knowledge to Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia. In 2012-2013, Brandon was in his grade 12 year at Millwood High School, where he first heard about Junior Achievement.
“I was interested because it was an opportunity to learn by application and a more hands on approach,”, says Brandon. He was thrilled to take part in JA’s Company Program, a student venture that inspires high school students to understand the role of business in our society by creating an enterprise of their own.
“Brandon realized if he just applied himself to something, he could be successful in whatever he wanted to do,”, says Brandon’s father - Peter Moak. “This was an awakening moment for him, and I was very proud of him.”.
Within a few weeks of the program, it was decided amongst his peers that Brandon would be selected as the President of their JA Company ‘Everybody Dyes’, a t-shirt tie-dying company.
Brandon credits JA with giving him the building blocks of running a business operation. “It was ‘us’ the students running the company, the advisors gave advice, but at the end of the day it was the students making the big decisions. This gave me major exposure to business fundamentals at a very early age”, says Brandon.
Brandon’s JA company continued throughout the program winning the annual Regional Pitch It Competition, comparable to CBC’s hit tv show Dragon’s Den, where companies pitch their business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial judges. It was during the Pitch It Competition that Peter realized just how far Brandon had come in participating in Company Program. “It is much different when you present to a classroom for a school project than to a panel of judges about your company idea. It not only improves your public speaking skills, but it drives you to learn how to present in a mature and professional manner”, says Peter.
Since then, Brandon applied to the University of Waterloo in Mechatronics Engineering and quickly moved into their Velocity Program for Entrepreneurs which offers valuable experience and opportunities to an entrepreneur’s business idea. As part of this journey, Brandon and his team were successful in their application to Y Combinator in Silicon Valley. Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups where Brandon’s company successfully raised $2.2 million towards their company, Embark Trucking. They went on to raise $15 million a short time afterwards, the full story can be found here: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/embark-3
“Learning from JA provided Brandon with the basics and understanding of how to run his own business. This made it easier for Brandon the second time around with Embark Trucking, because he has already operated a business through JA!”, says Peter.
Currently, this twenty-employee company is working to create self-driving trucks a reality. While most of the self-driving companies have been passenger vehicles, Embark Trucking is developing a software that will serve as a commercial truck’s central cortex which will in turn create safer roads on “long haul” stretches.
“I’m doing similar tasks that I did in JA, just now on a huge scale!” says Brandon.