It could be hard to imagine that Austin Russell, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, has anything in common with others his age — but he insists that he does.
Russell, 28, has an estimated net price of $1.6 billion, because of the performance of his Orlando, Florida-based tech startup Luminar Technologies, which currently has a market cap of $2.4 billion. The corporate, which Russell founded 11 years ago as a teen, develops hardware and software meant to power self-driving cars.
Only a few teenagers — or people of their 20s or 30s, for that matter — can launch and sustain that variety of business. A Thiel Fellowship helped, giving Russell $100,000 to drop out of Stanford University and grow his company full-time.
But relatively than specializing in technological expertise or business acumen, Russell credits his journey up to now to 2 traits common amongst younger generations: energy and keenness.
“People of their 20s have loads of great energy,” Russell tells CNBC Make It. “They put loads of passion [into] things and I’m actually no exception to that. I probably take it to the intense, and that is very meaningful.”
A 2020 SAP survey of 10,000 people found that millennials are more passionate than baby boomers and Gen Xers. The one group ahead of them, currently, is Gen Z — which can likely get surpassed as the following generation comes along.
“I used to be like 16, 17 years old where I said … ‘I actually have this vision of making a brand new variety of laser system that can allow cars to find a way to drive themselves. And we will beat out the Googles of this world, and all the main automakers, at their development efforts they’ll put into this,'” Russell told Forbes in 2021, recalling the pitch he gave investors as a teen.
Today, Luminar has a whole bunch of employees. Your automotive may soon include its technology, if you happen to drive a Mercedes-Benz or Volvo. Constructing such an organization takes greater than just passion and energy, Russell admits.
“I assume, I did memorize the periodic table — I believe I used to be around 2 or so,” he told CNBC Make It in 2018. “I used to be just obsessive about learning certain things … just independently learning and understanding loads of latest forms of scientific fields.”
But Russell may not have honed his technical and business skills — from coding to marketing — without harnessing that drive at a young age. He hopes to maintain his momentum going so long as he can, he says — whilst he ages, and his energy and keenness potentially fade.
“I believe loads of people of their 20s and 30s have a more open mind to the world,” he says. “After which it just appears like, over time, that just gets closed off, or people get ingrained in certain ways of doing things. A whole lot of times, you simply should approach problems from a fresh perspective.”