College dropout Austin Russell founded and runs automotive sensor firm Luminar Technologies, which went public in a SPAC merger in Dec. 2020.
An optics prodigy, Russell developed the idea for Luminar when he was just 17 and studying physics at Stanford University. He dropped out of college in 2012 after receiving a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship, a program funded by billionaire Peter Thiel to nurture entrepreneurs.
Following Luminar’s listing on Nasdaq, Russell became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at age 25. Luminar competes with laser lidar makers like Velodyne and Aeva, which make high-tech sensors to help self-driving vehicles “see” their surroundings.