The name Austin Russell may not be familiar to you, but it is better to remember it. At just 25 years old, the Californian is the world’s youngest new billionaire thanks to his company Luminar Technologies, a startup focused on creating and commercializing technology for autonomous vehicles.
The founder and CEO of Luminar is one of the few who have managed to amass a fortune in the world of self-propelled cars. Furthermore, he is the youngest self-taught billionaire in the world.
“It has been incredibly intense, exhausting… Everything that we have had to go through every day, climbing this. And of course, it is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to go out now and enter the public markets and scale through this IPO SPAC, ”Russell told Forbes in a video interview from his office in Palo Alto, California. “I am still relatively young, but… there have been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this. And I was lucky to be able to keep a good enough turnout ”.
The Wall Street Journal said Luminar’s shares rose approximately 28% on Thursday to nearly $ 23 at the close, after its public offering for sale. In this way, the market value of the company amounted to approximately $ 7.8 billion.
Austin owns 104.7 million Luminar shares, about one-third of its outstanding capital. At the close of trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday, they were worth $ 2.4 billion.
Luminar Technologies briefly touched an all-time high within days of emerging as a standalone company following its SPAC merger https://t.co/E4igm6h1xq
— Bloomberg Australia (@BloombergAU) December 7, 2020
Its investors include billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, famous for offering $ 100,000 scholarships to extraordinary young people to drop out of college and pursue their dreams. This is how he helped Russell start his company and has been his advisor since the boy left Stanford to start Luminar in 2012.
How did Austin Russell make his fortune?
Russell, who appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2018, is perfecting Lidar, the sensors that help self-driving cars “see” their surroundings by bouncing a laser beam off objects in their path. A fundamental technology for self-driving vehicles that have won customers such as Volvo Cars, Daimler, and Intel’s Mobileye.
A report from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission estimates that while Luminar will likely post sales of just $ 15 million this year, it could generate at least $ 1.3 billion by 2026.
Before achieving billionaire status, Russell already had several notable accomplishments. According to the profile made by Forbes, he memorized the periodic table of elements at 2 years. When he was in sixth grade, he reconnected his Nintendo DS game console to a mobile phone after his parents forbade him to have one. At age 13, he filed his first patent: a groundwater recycling system that collects water from sprinklers and saves it to reduce wastewater.
Instead of going to high school, he spent his teens at the University of California at the Irvine Beckman Laser Institute. He was later admitted to Stanford to study physics but dropped out mid-freshman after winning the $ 100,000 Thiel Scholarship, founding Luminar shortly after obtaining his driver’s license.
Excluding inherited fortunes, Russell is one of the very few people on the planet who made a billion dollars before turning 30.
The Future of Russell and Luminar Technologies
As well as being big business, the young visionary is convinced that his Lidar has the potential to save lives, both as part of self-driving cars and as a component of the advanced driver assistance systems that Volvo and other car manufacturers are using. taking to the market in the next two or three years.
As a teenager, he saw that Velodyne and other companies were making laser sensors, but determined that they needed to make them more affordable to be ubiquitous. “We have been able to accelerate this because no one has done this before,” Russell noted.