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10 Things You Didn't Know about Austin Russell

Austin Russell

Austin Russell is the founder of Luminar Technologies. He is notable because he is someone in his 20s who has nonetheless managed to become a billionaire.  But just in case you need to learn more about him, here are 10 things that might interest you.

1. Based Out of the San Francisco Bay Area

Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that Russell is based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Generally speaking, if someone on the younger side of things manages to make that kind of money, they tend to be involved in the tech industry in some way. Furthermore, if they are based in the United States, it is very common for them to be based out of the San Francisco Bay Area because the region is home to a huge concentration of tech-related expertise, experience, and other resources that are useful for such companies.

2. Went to Stanford University

Having said that, Russell has been associated with said region since before he started up his company. After all, he went to Stanford University, which can be found in Santa Clara County. Said school was founded by Leland and Jane Stanford in 1885. However, it wasn't named for either of them. Instead, Stanford University was named for their son Leland Stanford Jr., who had died at the age of 15 because of typhoid fever. Something that was much more dangerous in the past than in the present.

3. Studied Applied Physics

At school, Russell studied applied physics. Said field is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, which is to say, the application of physics for the purpose of problem-solving. As such, applied physics isn't quite engineering. However, there can be no doubt about the fact that it has a strong connection to engineering, so much so that it can be considered something of a bridge to the latter. Applied physics is a huge field that encompasses a wide range of topics for the simple reason that physics is a huge field that encompasses a wide range of topics. For proof, look no further than the fact that it covers everything from brain-computer interfacing to lasers and nuclear fission.

4. Dropped Out of School

Russell never completed his schooling. Instead, he dropped out in preference for pursuing his goals. Something that presumably enabled him to make his fortune sooner than he would have under other circumstances.

5. Had Some Notable Achievements When He Was Still a Child

Some notable individuals don't become so until later in life. In contrast, others show signs of their future promise from a young age. Russell can be considered an excellent example of the latter. For example, he is said to have memorized the periodic table of elements when he was still at the age of two. Similarly, when his parents forbade him from having a Nintendo DS, he reconnected it to his mobile phone.

6. Filed His First Patent At the Age of 13

Having said that, what might be most impressive would be the fact that Russell filed his first patent at the age of 13. In short, the patent was for a groundwater recycling system that would reduce waste-water by collecting the water from sprinklers. This kind of thing promises to become more and more important for the foreseeable future because of the limited quantities of usable water, which are critical for human civilization in a way that very few things can match. Theoretically, we could get usable water from the oceans that cover most of the planet's surface. In practice, the processes needed to make saltwater usable for a wide range of purposes are expensive, meaning that this is much easier said than done.

7. Didn't Go to High School

Regardless, it is interesting to note that Russell was so notable as a child that he didn't go to high school. Instead, he went right to the University of California's Irvine Beckman Laser Institute when he was still in his teens, which is extraordinary by most people's reckoning. Given that Russell's company is reliant on lasers, it seems that his time was well-spent.

8. Advised By Peter Thiel

Naturally, Russell has had help on his way to success. For instance, he has been advised by Peter Thiel, a German-American billionaire who is known for a number of things. For example, he was one of the co-founders of PayPal in 1998. Similarly, he was the first outsider to invest in Facebook, having purchased a 10.2 percent stake in exchange for $500,000 in August of 2004. However, there are a lot of people out there who might be more familiar with Thiel because of his politics. In short, he is a Republican, with the result that he has done everything from funding one of James O'Keefe's earlier videos to being a member of the executive committee of Donald Trump's transition team. Regardless, Thiel was the one who enabled Russell to drop out of school because of the $100,000 Thiel Scholarship.

9. His Company Focuses on Lidar

In any case, Russell's company focuses on lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging. Some people might be familiar with the fact that radar stands for radio detection and ranging. If so, they might be able to guess that lidar determines range by using a laser to target an object before calculating the relevant number based on the time it takes for the reflected light to return. As such, lidar sees use in a wide range of fields for a wide range of purposes, with navigation being just one of them.

10. His Company Targets a Couple of Major Markets

It isn't hard to see why Russell's company has managed to become so big so fast. After all, its product is extremely useful for a couple of promising markets. First, there is every car manufacturer that wants to install driver assistance systems in their cars, which has become a much-demanded feature. Second, lidar promises to be even more useful in self-driving cars, which aren't quite ready to hit the dealerships at this point in time but nonetheless seem to be making decent progress towards that goal.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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