When rapper Travie McCoy sang about wanting to be a billionaire and to be on the cover of Forbes magazine in 2010, he was speaking to the next prodigy who was on the verge of an intention to get himself there.
Austin Russell, the 25-year-old CEO of Luminar Technologies, just became the youngest self-made billionaire because of the laser sensor company that he founded when he left Stanford at age 17. After producing lidar scanners that give autonomous cars a 3D view, his company’s stock market debut enjoyed a 28% first-day spike that put Luminar’s value at $7.8 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. His one-third stake is worth $2.4 billion, according to Forbes, with the number rising during Friday’s trading.
Russell may have just turned old enough to rent a car, but the startup founder has changed how self-driven vehicles operate. His company challenged Tesla and now works with Volvo and Intel’s autonomous vehicle unit.
“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,” Russell told CNBC. “We set up the company to be a long-term sustainable business and power the future of autonomy for all of these automakers.”
Russell finds himself in the same category of cosmetics empress Kylie Jenner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who also became billionaires in their 20s. But Russell hit it bigger than either of them.
It started with his memorizing the periodic table of elements when he was 2 years old and moved on to programming part of his Nintendo DS to be a cell phone when he was 10 or 11 because his parents would not buy him one, CNBC reported. At that point, he had built a research lab in his parents’ Southern California garage.
Parents, let your kids play with their video game systems and park on the curb.