Austin Russell, CEO of Luminar, is the youngest self-made billionaire after going public with his company last month. On December 3rd, pink confetti rained on another tech entrepreneur. Austin Russell, over six feet tall, grappling with the laid-back CEO – a dark blue zip-up jacket over button-down jeans, dark jeans and matching sneakers – towered over the Nasdaq platform in Times Square, clapping and nodding. Head as he rang the opening bell. He was in the almost empty trading floor for the virtual IPO ceremony of Luminar, the self-driving auto-tech startup that Russell founded eight years ago at the age of 17. Self-study and home improvement as a teenager put 25-year-old Russell on the path to self-driving car dominance thanks to the breakthroughs he made with lidar sensors. Russell’s rise reads like a Silicon Valley myth. He hacked lidar – an innovative way for cars to see the world in his self-taught garage lab in 2012, years before the importance of lidar became clear. Today, Luminar’s 350 employees work in a 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility at its headquarters in Orlando, Florida, and at a converted tank repair facility in Palo Alto, California. He floated Luminar in December through a reverse merger with the Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) Gores Metropoulos. Four days after going public, Luminar Technologies shares rose 25%, increasing three-day earnings from over 110% to $ 41.80 per share. The stock has been somewhat volatile since then, falling nearly 50% at one point to $ 22.87, and trading at $ 30 as of Friday’s close. During its stock digging in mid-December, the short-selling company advised Citron against buying Luminar stock in a tweet while an analyst is reluctant. (Two other analysts have a buy note.) Even so, Russell jumped for historical and intergenerational wealth.
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