Innovators: SURFING THE ENVIRONMENTAL DATA WAVE

OCEAN OBSERVATION & SCIENCE GUEST ARTICLES

    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Photo: Screen capture of Dan Brake on stage during his TedX Talk in St. John's.
    • Story by Alisha Morrissey. Edited by Wade Kearley.
    • 10 things about Dan Brake
    • Dan and Liffey were married on the East Coast Trail by his father three years ago. A pod of whales appeared at the end of the ceremony delighting the visiting guests.
    • Dan and Liffey’s marriage was one of five to come out of the British start-up where they met.
    • If Dan wasn’t an entrepreneur he’d be a musician. He plays guitar, harmonica and sings his own music.
    • Dan has started to write several novels but has never finished one.
    • Watch Dan Brake’s TedX Talk where he talks about environmental connections with technology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14kjBG2_v8s
    • When he lived in California, instead of going for a morning coffee, Dan would go for a morning surf.
    • Dan has a brother who is an archaeologist in Nain, an older sister who is a mom to three children in Torbay and a younger sister who is an accountant in Denver.
    • EMSAT has signed a partnership with a Brazilian company, opening up the Rio market to the local company.
    • Dan is glad he got his degree before travelling the world, saying he couldn’t have appreciated it properly at a younger age.
    • He has a passion for the history of the native peoples in North and South America and hopes to travel to Peru to do the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.
    • Though he has travelled to South East Asia, he has never visited mainland China and has it on his bucket list.
     

    SURFING THE ENVIRONMENTAL DATA WAVE

    added on December 11, 2014 @ 4:03pm by Admin

    There’s a look of satisfaction on Dan Brake’s face as he holds out his cell phone, “There’s so much technology in this thing. The technology in this would cost $100,000 fifteen years ago and now we carry it around in our pocket. It is a heck of a lot more than just a phone,” he says, grinning widely. As a long-time technology aficionado, Brake has surfed the digital wave around the world before returning to Newfoundland and Labrador to establish his own successful company.

     

    As CEO and co-founder of software development company EMSAT, Brake has discovered entrepreneurship and innovation is really what drives him.

     

    Raised by his Anglican minister father and teacher mother Brake and his two sisters and a brother, moved every few years from one Newfoundland outport to another.  He was interested in technology from a young age. As a teen, he learned computer code “for fun.”

     

    After earning his undergraduate degree in history and business administration at Memorial University in 1995, Brake made a decision that was dictated by the economic climate of his home province and his then still-evolving ambition.

     

    “At that time it didn’t matter what I graduated with. I could have had a master’s in 1995 and I wouldn’t find a job in Newfoundland,” he recalls. “The moratorium was on. Downtown was boarded up. It was a completely different city.

     

    “I went for a four-month backpacking trip and came back three years later.” During his travels he acquiring technological skills as he went.

     

    It was then, after years of self-taught computer programming and service in IT capacities abroad, that Brake realized he wanted to work with technology. He passed aptitude tests and entered Dalhousie’s IT and adult education master’s program, where he excelled. After graduation he took a position teaching university in California.

     

    With a mountain of student loan debt, he looked for other technology opportunities and moved into the bustling dot com industry in California until the dot com bubble burst, and then moved to the UK. There he met his future wife Liffey, so-named after the Dublin river near which her parents lived.

     

    During his time away from the province, Brake was becoming more and more aware of environmental issues and of the potential for smart technology to play a key part in informing initiatives that seek to protect or minimize impacts on the natural world.

     

    And that awareness and drive to monitor environmental data, was one of the driving forces behind his next move. “When I came back to Newfoundland  I founded EMSAT on April Fool’s Day, 2010. That was the first time I was able to launch something on my own. Now I’ve had a taste of it, being an entrepreneur is a heck of a lot of fun. It’s exciting,” he says.

     

    Today, living in St. John’s with Liffey and their four-and-a-half year old son Kalani (“If you forget the half he’ll be upset.”), Brake is known as a mentor to other start-up companies and a flexible employer to the seven people who work for EMSAT.

     

    “I don’t tell the team when or where they have to work. We don’t have set hours. They can work from here, they can work from home, as long as the work is done,” he says.

     

    “We’re super flexible. One of the guys just left for Bangladesh. He’s not going to visit his family who he hasn’t seen in two years for just two weeks, right? He is going to be away for five weeks? Fine. But take your laptop with you, because we might need you while you are there,” he says.

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    Brake’s flexibility extends beyond the confines of his company. “Sometimes you develop a relationship at an organization like StartUp NL or Common Ground, or whatever, and you’re really helping others,” he says of his mentorship role. “We definitely made some mistakes and we can pass on some information there. But on the other side, there’s so many things I don’t know. There’s so many mistakes I want to avoid, and I have absolutely no issue calling someone up and saying, ‘Hey, I’m having issues around this or that, can you give me a hand?’”

     

    That’s the nature of the technology industry, he says. “Every good business opportunity has been based on partnerships.”

     

    “A rising tide will raise all ships. There’s so many people doing so many things and we may be competing in one area, but there’s a much bigger benefit to us working together. Sometimes two plus two can equal more than four.”

     

    Brake says small start-ups in the technology sector are particularly exciting right now, because they have the opportunity of partnering. He says any company that offers a service that saves time, money, or provides a safety service has supports in St. John’s that they would never have had access to before.

     

    “There’s a few places in the world that act as ocean technology hubs. Right now in Newfoundland and Labrador we have a lot going for us; we’ve got a lot of experience on the ocean; we’ve got a lot of services to support ocean technology businesses; and right now, St. John’s is not just seen as an ocean technology hub, but also a gateway for Arctic exploration and development so the amount of focus on St. John’s is very big right now, especially internationally.”

     

     

     

     

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