You may not know the name Austin Russell, but it is better to remember it. At just 25 years old, the Californian is the youngest new billionaire in the world thanks to his company Luminar Technologies, and a startup focused on creating and commercializing autonomous vehicle technology.
The founder and CEO of Luminar is one of the few who managed to amass a fortune in the world of self-driving cars. Furthermore, he is the youngest self-taught billionaire in the world.
Austin owns 104.7 million shares of Luminar, about one-third of its outstanding capital. At the end of trading with Nasdaq on Thursday, they were worth $ 2.4 billion. Its investors include billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, known for offering $ 100,000 in scholarships to outstanding young people to leave college and pursue their dreams.
He helped Russell start his own company and was his mentor after leaving Stanford and founded 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, sensors that help self-driving cars “see” their surroundings by refracting a laser beam from objects in their path.
The fundamental technology for self-driving vehicles has won over customers such as Volvo Kars, Daimler, and Intel Mobile. A report by the US Securities and Exchange Commission estimates that although Luminar is likely to announce sales of just $ 15 million this year, it could generate at least $ 1.3 billion by 2026.
Before becoming a billionaire, Russell already had several notable achievements. According to a profile made by Forbes, he memorizes the periodic table of elements every 2 years.
When he was in sixth grade, he reconnected his Nintendo DS game console to a cell phone after his parents forbade him to have one.
At the age of 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, Irvine Beckman’s Laser Institute.
He was later admitted to Stanford to study physics but dropped out in the middle of his first year after winning the $100,000 Thiel Scholarship, founding Luminar shortly after obtaining his driver’s license. Excluding inherited fortunes, Russell is one of the few people on the planet who made $ 1 billion before turning 30.
The future of Russell and Luminar technologies
As well as being a 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 part of advanced driver assistance systems used by Volvo and other car manufacturers, a market in the next two or three years.
As a teenager, he saw Velodyne and other companies making laser sensors but found that they needed to make them more accessible to be ubiquitous. “We could have accelerated this because no one has done it before,” Russell said.