A Stanford dropout, Austin Russell is now one of the world's richest-and youngest- entrepreneurs | Source: Brooksy Society

This 26-Year Old is the World’s Youngest Self-Made Billionaire

At just 26-years old, Austin Russell has become the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, according to Forbes, with his net worth currently sitting at around A$2.1 billion.

Overtaking reality TV star and cosmetics queen Kylie Jenner, Russell’s wealth has been sourced very differently from your average Kardashian. His business, Luminar Technologies, develops vision-based perception technologies for self-driving cars.

Seemingly destined for a life of success in optics, Russell had memorised the periodic table of elements by age two.

At only 17-years old, he was researching at the University of California for the Irvine Beckman laser institute and later enrolled at Stanford University to study physics. A USD$100,000 scholarship later, Russell dropped out of Stanford and founded Luminar Technologies, all before he’d passed his driver’s test.

When you have to build something truly from the ground up, everything is a challenge. And not a trivial one. You have to be able to ensure that you’re successfully balancing all the different aspects of the business, beyond the core technology developments.

Austin Russell for Forbes

After listing the company publicly following fives years of stealth mode, Luminar’s market value rose to A$4.57 billion and with his share of one-third, Russell’s own wealth sky-rocketed.

Using laser beams to bounce off surrounding objects, Luminar creates a map for self-driving cars | Source: Forbes

Today, Luminar technologies develop sensors to help self-driving cars see their surroundings, using laser beams that bounce off nearby objects. The technology is being used by big names in the automotive industry including Toyota and Volvo.

Billionaire Peter Thiel and co-founder of Paypal, was among the investors who helped to lift the company off the ground, granting Russell his scholarship while he was at Stanford.

The company’s soaring success was once doubted by the CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, who described Luminar’s technologies as a “crutch” and “a fool’s errand” for the self-driving vehicle industry.

“Anyone relying on LIDAR (Luminar’s sensor technologies) is doomed”, Musk said during Tesla’s “Autonomy Day” event presentation. “Expensive sensors that are unnecessary. It’s like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices…you’ll see”.

Tesla later was reported to have a contract with Luminar to use its technologies for testing, according to Bloomberg.

Russell currently sits alongside a roundup of baby-faced billionaires including Doordash founders Andy Fang and Stanley Tang and cryptocurrency investor Sam Bankman-Fried.

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