At just two years old, Austin Russell showed an interest in science and technology, even memorizing the periodic table.
With a fortune of $2.4 billion and ranked 1299th among the richest people in the world, the 26-year-old has just been named the youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes magazine.
At just two years old, Austin Russell showed an interest in science and technology, even memorizing the periodic table. At the age of 11, or 12, he turned his family’s garage into an optical and electromagnetics laboratory so that he could work on a number of projects and programs. At that time he also wrote software.
Austin’s parents do not do scientific research. His father worked in commercial real estate. His mother worked a variety of jobs, including public speaking. However, he always received the support of his parents. He was brought up in a non-traditional educational environment, encouraged to explore how things work, why and how. He said he had a wonderful childhood growing up in Orange County, Southern California.
While his peers completed their final years of high school, he went to study and work at the Beckman Laser Institute. This was the springboard for him to enter the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford University. Six months later, Austin received a Thiel Foundation scholarship. Feeling that the time was right, he set up a business to continue promoting his ongoing projects. The young man sees an opportunity in creating a new sensor system for autonomous vehicles.
In addition to the $100,000 backing, Russell also raised money for the early stages of his startup on his own. More people joined the company then based in Southern California, among them his uncle, an electrical engineer. To date, his company has added an office in Silicon Valley, more than 350 employees and has raised a total capital of up to 250 million dollars.
One of Russell’s greatest strengths is his ability to concentrate. Unlike most Gen-Z youths, he limits his social media use (currently no Twitter or Instagram accounts). He also loves the fact that he doesn’t have to pay the hefty tuition fees for college. That gave him the sharp mind to continue developing and refining Luminar’s technology.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many companies, Austin Russell’s startup Luminar is still ramping up finance at full speed.
An optical prodigy, Russell developed the idea for Luminar when he was 17 years old and was studying physics at Stanford University. He dropped out of school that same year (2012) after receiving the $100,000 Thiel Scholarship, a program sponsored by billionaire Peter Thiel to support startup entrepreneurs. That same year he founded Luminar Technologies. With support from the Peter Thiel Foundation, Russell is determined to make Luminar popular in the autonomous vehicle market.
In December 2020, his company reversely merged with the acquired company to become a public company and listed on Nasdaq stock exchange. Overnight, the 25-year-old became the youngest self-made billionaire, joining an elite list that includes tech giants like Bill Gates, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg.
For Russell, time is of the utmost importance. The UK entered the self-driving car market very early, before the market started its upward growth trajectory. Less than a decade later, his net worth stands at $3.2 tir thanks to holding about a third of his company ownership.
Luminar harnesses laser energy using Lidar (light detection and division) technology, produces sensors and software that Russell has developed since he was a teenager.
Currently a partner of big names like Audi, Volvo and Toyota, the billionaire born in 1995 is ready to compete with rivals like Tesla and its Lidar-free Autonomous Driving system. Luminar also competes with laser lidar manufacturers such as Velodyne and Aeva. These are manufacturers of high-tech sensors to help self-driving cars “see” their surroundings. He also aims to provide cheaper and more accessible products to customers.
Despite amassing a large fortune, his ultimate goal is to perfect Lidar’s ability to keep occupants safe in both fully automated and manned vehicles.
(According to Tien Phong)