The race to commercialize self-driving car technology has attracted billions of dollars of investment but not created many billionaires. Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell is among the rare exceptions. With the Nasdaq listing of the laser sensor company he founded at age 17, the optics prodigy is one of the first billionaires to emerge from the autonomous-vehicle world—and the youngest self-made billionaire in the world.
Russell, who’s also a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum from the class of 2018, isn’t looking to take on self-driving tech giants like Alphabet’s Waymo or GM-backed Cruise, but instead is perfecting sensors that help autonomous cars “see” their surroundings by bouncing a laser beam off objects in their path. Known as lidar for “light detection and ranging,” the technology is fundamental for autonomous vehicles. Luminar is competing in that space with Velodyne, the early leader in lidar for autonomous vehicles, and newcomer Aeva, both of which are also going public via SPAC mergers. Russell has sold prototype sensors to major auto companies for the past few years, but more recently secured production orders from Volvo Cars, Daimler and Intel’s Mobileye that may ensure revenue growth for several years.
“It’s been insanely intense, grueling . . . everything through every day that we’ve had to go through, scaling this up. And of course it’s incredibly rewarding to have an opportunity to be able to get out there now and get into the public markets and scale through this IPO SPAC,” 25-year-old Russell tells Forbes in a video interview from his office in Palo Alto, California. “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.”
Read the full profile on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2020/12/03/meet-the-worlds-newest-and-youngest-self-made-billionaire-luminars-austin-russell/?sh=621db86e123b
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