$2.4 billion • Sensors • U.S.
Russell, 26, spent his teens doing research at the University of California at Irvine’s Beckman Laser Institute. The lanky 6-foot-4 entrepreneur dropped out of Stanford in 2012 to found laser lidar (an acronym for light, detection and
ranging) startup Luminar Technologies after getting a $100,000 fellowship from billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel. Its sensors now help self-driving cars of customers such as Volvo, Toyota and Intel’s Mobileye see in 3D by bouncing laser beams off nearby objects and vehicles’ surroundings. The company listed on the Nasdaq via a SPAC merger with Gores Metropoulos in December 2020. Russell, who owns about one-third of it, became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire overnight.