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Luminar CEO Becomes Youngest Billionaire Following IPO Debut

UTC by Steven Msoh · 3 min read
Luminar CEO Becomes Youngest Billionaire Following IPO Debut
Photo: Luminar / Twitter

Austin Russell has become the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Following the IPO debut of his company Luminar, the 25-year-old CEO is now worth more than $2.4 billion.

Luminar Technologies (NASDAQ: LAZR) revealed its plan to go for an IPO in August via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company. As Coinspeaker reported, the Florida-based company merged with Gores Metropoulos, finally making its debut at Nasdaq yesterday, December 3.

Austin Russell, who founded the company at just 17, owns over 104 million shares, a third of Luminar’s outstanding equity. His equity is now worth $2.4 billion.

With the world of automotive startups enjoying its best year yet, Luminar enjoyed a great stock market debut in its IPO. The stock price has recorded a 16.62% rise in a pre-market session today to trade at $26.80 at press time. Russell described the feeling of being a billionaire as ‘totally surreal.’ Speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box, he stated that his team is focusing on the long term and how Luminar can power autonomous vehicles.

“It is totally surreal and it totally makes sense and it is hard to explain the dichotomy of it, but this has always been the goal. We set up the company to be a long-term sustainable business and power the future of autonomy for all of these automakers. We are in it for the long-term.”

For the 6-foot-4 California native, a fascination with laser technology came at an early age. This interest led him to lidar technology which uses laser technology to create a 3D map, ultimately enabling autonomous machines. He joined Stanford University to study physics, dropping out later to focus on his company. He received the Thiel Fellowship from tech titan Peter Thiel, allowing him to advance Luminar to become the leader in lidar technology.

The Billion-Dollar Club

Russell becomes one of a few billionaires that have emerged from the autonomous vehicles sector, one that has been growing aggressively in recent years. He joins David Hall, the founder and CEO of Velodyne Lidar, who’s now worth $1 billion. Hall’s company develops lidar solutions from autonomous vehicles.

While Velodyne Lidar and Luminar are competitors in the lidar technology industry, Russell is confident that his company still has an edge. He told CNBC:

“We’ve built out and pioneered core components … building from the ground up. We have not used commodity parts. We have the largest patent portfolio in sensing systems, more than the top five other lidar R&D efforts combined.”

Russell has also joined a distinguished list of entrepreneurs who have become billionaires while still in their 20s. The list includes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who did it at 23, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel who did it at 24, Stripe founding brothers Patrick and John Collison who did it at 26 and Kylie Jenner, the founder of Kylie Cosmetics, who did it at 21.

The journey to the top hasn’t been easy, Russell told Forbes.

“It’s been insanely intense, grueling, everything through every day that we’ve had to go through, scaling this up. I’m still relatively young, but … a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into it. And I was fortunate enough to be able to retain a good enough stake.”

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