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Man Who Founded Company At 17 Becomes Youngest Self-Made Billionaire

Man Who Founded Company At 17 Becomes Youngest Self-Made Billionaire

A man who founded his company at the age of just 17 has become the world's youngest self-made billionaire after taking his firm public.

Austin Russell, 25, became an overnight billionaire after taking his lidar sensor technology company Luminar Technologies public on the NASDAQ exchange yesterday (Thursday 3 December).

According to Forbes, Russell's 104.7 million shares - about a third of Luminar's outstanding equity - was worth $2.4 billion (£1.78bn) at the close of NASDAQ trading on Thursday.

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Speaking to Forbes from his office in Palo Alto, California, Russell said: "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.

Credit: AP/Shutterstock
Credit: AP/Shutterstock

"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."

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Luminar's NASDAQ listing was announced back in August, which Forbes reports resulted from a merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos - a unit of Beverly Hills-based finance firm The Gores Group.

It sent the company's estimated market value soaring to $3.4 billion (£4.56bn) prior to the start of trading.

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One of the investors in the newly-public Luminar is billionaire Peter Thiel, who helped Russell in his early days after making him a Thiel Fellow in 2012.

Other investors include Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Alec Gores of The Gores Group, who is also a Luminar board member, and billionaire Dean Metropoulos, who is its chairman.

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Credit: AP/Shutterstock
Credit: AP/Shutterstock
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He told CNBC: "It is a really, really special time for us and we are super-excited about all the value creation we've had.

"In spite of all the headwinds we've had in 2020... it's been really fantastic."

Russell filed for his first patent when he was just 13.

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He'd invented an underground system that would help recycle sprinkler water so that it can be used for gardening.

During his teenage years, he was busy studying at the University of California, at Irvine's Beckman Laser Institute.

He later made his way to Stanford to study physics, but stopped out to accept that $100,000 (£74,000) Thiel Fellowship.

When he was still just 17, he set up Luminar - one of the leading suppliers of lidar technology, which uses laser beams to give vehicles a 3D view of the road.

Featured Image Credit: NASDAQ

Topics: Billionaire, News, US News, Technology

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Jess Hardiman

Jess is a journalist at LADbible who graduated from Manchester University with a degree in Film Studies, English Language and Linguistics - indecisiveness at its finest, right there. She also works for FOODbible and its sister page Seitanists, which are both a safe haven for her to channel a love for homemade pasta, fennel and everything else in between. You can contact Jess at [email protected]