- Tram Ho
When he was three years old, Austin Russell had memorized the periodic table of elements. At the age of 13, he invented a recycling system that works underwater. Less than 17 years old, Russell founded a company tasked with helping self-driving cars avoid collisions.
Now, at the age of 26, Russell is a billionaire. Luminar Technologies Inc., was founded when he was a teenager. The company was listed last December and Russell owns 105 million shares as of December 2, or nearly a third of the outstanding shares. Such large holdings are bringing the young businessman a fortune of $ 2.4 billion in just the first day of trading.
” When you start with zero and build something with real value, that’s when things get interesting, ” says Russell.
Luminar, headquartered in Orlando, makes distance measurement technology for self-driving cars in the form of a lidar scanner, which uses lasers for sensing nearby targets. Integrated computer scanners create images of obstacles around the vehicle, thereby avoiding collisions with pedestrians or other vehicles.
Russell’s passion for science flourished when he grew up in Newport Beach (California). When he was only 11 years old, he turned the family garage into an electrical and optical research laboratory. ” I spent a lot of days there, ” says Russell. His parents even brought food to the garage.
Austin Russell – founder of Luminar.
Finally, in the laboratory, the young man made other inventions such as the multi-dimensional keyboard. He projected this keyboard on his desk and typed. After that, he concluded that how the application of inventions into practice “seems amazing”.
Russell initially paid his lab rent with the proceeds of Nitendo’s “Super Smash Brothers” gaming tournament. After graduating from high school in 2013, he enrolled at Stanford University with the intention of studying applied physics.
However, after only 3 months, Russell decided to drop out of school and received a 2-year scholarship from a fund of technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Accordingly, he developed the Luminar and a high-performance lidar scanner. This scanner will be the key to making self-driving vehicles a reality, Russell claims.
And that reality will happen soon. In May 2020, Luminar signed an agreement to provide lidar technology for Volvo’s first self-driving electric vehicles. This model is expected to be available on the market next year.
After being Gores Metropoulos Inc. – an SPAC, acquired last August, Luminar was officially listed. The startup’s revenue is around $ 14 million in 2020 and is expected to be unprofitable until 2024.
Image displayed through Luminar’s sensor device.
Russell says building this kind of business is really tough. Therefore, he has learned a lot from experienced entrepreneurs with advice given at the right time.
Jun Hong Seng – founder and CIO of Crescent Cove Advisors LP, met Russell through the billionaire Thiel training program. His company has invested in Luminar about $ 100 million since 2016. As the company prepares to list, some shareholders questioned whether Russell is the right CEO to get the company going. further or not. Heng said they should be persistent with the startup.
Like Heng, Rebecca Lynn, co-founder and partner at Canvas Ventures, is also an early stage investor for Luminar. Her venture capital firm poured 13.25 million into the startup in two funding rounds.
Lynn can give Russell advice because she had been observing Luminar’s board performance before the company went public. She advised Russell to hire a team of world-class executives to ” help him see the nooks and crannies” and cut down on marketing time . ”
Tom Fennermore – who just became a CFO for Luminar in 2020, is the staff Russell needs. Previously, he was the global director of the automotive division at investment bank Jefferies Group LLC and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Nick Woodman – Founder and CEO of GoPro, invested $ 18 million in Luminar. Starting a camera maker that makes content management software and cloud services in 2002, Woodman knows very well the stresses of running a fast-growing startup.
” To be the best version of yourself, you have to take care of yourself, ” Woodman told Luminar’s young director. Accordingly, Russell has shortened the working time of the week from 120 hours to 80 hours. In addition, Woodman also advised Russell to avoid endless meetings and instead hold regular meetings.
Alec Gores is the chairman and CEO of The Gores Group LLC – the company SPAC has put Luminar “on the floor”, he is also the director of Luminar. Gores has spent quite a bit of time advising Russell over the past year, mentioning the importance of delegation. He emphasized that Russell should focus on the “picture” of the whole picture, not to get caught up in small issues day in and day out.
Such advice reinforced Russell’s view of the foresight of his role. He shared, ” I am fortunate to receive advice from the ‘seniors’ to have a 50-year vision for Luminar .”
Refer to the Wall Street Journal; TechCrunch
Source : Genk