John Collison is a new youngest self-made billionaire in the city. Austin Russell founded Luminar Technologies when he was 17 years old. His total assets have gone up to $ 2.4 billion recently after his company went public on Nasdaq. Luminaire is a self-driving car startup. This makes him the youngest self-made billionaire. He is one of the first billionaires to emerge from the self-driving car industry.
Russell owns 104.7 million shares of his company, which is about a third of all available shares. Luminaire has a market value of $ 3.4 billion. Investors at Luminar include Peter Thiel, who helped Russell start Luminaire when he made him a Thiel Fellow in 2020, Alec Gores of The Gorse Group, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, and billionaire Dean Metropoulos, who is president of Luminar . Thiel’s fellowship, which was a part of Russell in 2012, offered $ 100,000 to get big-thinking youngsters out of college to pursue their ideas. Thiel has been Russell’s mentor since he moved out of Stanford in 2012 to start Luminar.
Russell’s Luminar is not in the business of making self-driving cars, it helps sensors “drive” by bouncing laser beams from objects in the car’s path. This technique called ‘LIDAR’ for light detection and ranging is fundamental to self-driving cars. The technique is similar to radar, but it uses lasers instead of radio waves. Russell has been selling prototypes of major car manufacturers for the past few years. He recently received orders from Volvo, Daimler Truck AG, Chinese carmaker Jelly and Intel Corp’s Mobi. The Luminar’s SEC projected sales of $ 15 million this year and believed the company would exceed $ 1 billion in sales by 2026.
Russell is eccentric since birth. He memorized the periodic table of the elements in two. At the age of six, he took his Nintendo DS game console and turned it into a mobile phone. He applied for his first patent at 13 for an underground water recycling system that reuses water for future horticulture, something that also reduces wastewater. He did not attend a traditional high school. He spent those years at the Beckman Leisure Institute of the University of California at Irvine. He was admitted to Stanford to study physics but dropped out during his freshman year to take a Thiel Fellowship for his LIDAR idea.
Other companies in place of self-driving cars such as Velodyne when she was a teenager with her laser sensors, Russell quickly came to LIDAR after research. He thought that there is a better way. He believes LIDAR has the potential to save lives in both self-driving cars and driver-support systems. His system is completely different from other companies in the same place because he wanted it to be cheaper so that he could create more companies. He hopes his contributions will curb car accidents.
For now, what’s next for Russell? He is building a new home in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Atherton.