Austin Russell, 26, recently became a billionaire with a net worth of $1.7 billion.
From a college dropout
At the age of 17, while studying physics at Stanford University, Russell developed an idea for automotive sensor technology that would later become a key breakthrough for Luminar Technologies. However, the young man quit the college in 2012 after receiving a $100,000 scholarship from billionaire tech investor and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Discussing why he dropped out, Russell said: ” When you have this fundamental drive to be able to build, to be able to create, it’s very challenging to do that in an academic environment.” Russell himself was born into a well-to-do family in Newport Beach. His father, Michael Russell, works in commercial estates, and his mother, Shannon Cleye, a former model and actress starred in The Young and The Restless.
To inventing a self-driving car technology
The Luminar is a start-up that develops lidar sensor and hardware technology that “uses lasers to detect and measure distance and ultimately create a 3D map of the real-world environment that can be used in self-driving”.
Luminar’s lidar sensors are currently used by major car brands such as Volvo, Toyota and Intel’s Mobileye. Recently, Luminar was selected for use in Nvidia’s Drive Hyperion Autonomous Vehicle Reference Platform, which aims to produce complete software by 2024.
Despite founding Luminar in 2012, it took the young Russell several years to achieve billionaire status. Russell’s vision when he founded the company was to be a “long-term sustainable business and power the future of autonomy for all of these carmakers”, adding that his recent success was “totally surreal”.
A truly self-made billionaire
In 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk called lidar technology “freaking stupid … expensive and unnecessary”. However, Russell has a different view, “I think 50 commercial partners and a majority of the major carmakers we are working with would disagree. Cameras and other systems are great for assisted driving, but with autonomy, that’s where a really high-performance lidar is needed.”
After Luminar listed on the Nasdaq exchange last December, Russell became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 25 – a title once awarded to Kylie Jenner but has since been removed.
According to The Wall Street Journal, shares of Luminar were up nearly 28% at launch and gave the company a market value of about $7.8 billion.
Already owner of multimillion-dollar mansions
As a highly capable executive, Russell appears to have “learned” how to use his newly acquired assets. According to Dirt, the young billionaire recently bought a $83 million mansion in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, that stretches over 20,000 square feet, having 6 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms.
Not only that, the Los Angeles mansion also has retina scanners into bedrooms, 20-seat outdoor cinema and car showroom…and has famous neighbors like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
Russell also owns another property: a nearly 13,000-square-foot mansion in Winter Park, Florida, located 17 kilometers from Luminar’s Orlando headquarters. The Florida mansion has 10 bedrooms and bathrooms, plus an 18-car garage, two kitchens and AstroTurf lawns in the front and back yards.