Nation’s youngest billionaire Austin Russell aims to ‘unleash the potential’ of Orlando with $70M donation (by Alex Soderstrom)

Five years ago, Austin Russell knocked on doors in Orlando to ask homeowners if he could buy their house.

The CEO of Orlando-based Luminar Technologies Inc. wanted a home as close as possible to the autonomous vehicle sensor firm’s east Orlando facility. However, there were no available homes nearby, Russell told Orlando Inno. “I actually went door-to-door knocking, asking if people would want to sell their home for a small mark-up. I actually got a couple of takers.”

Russell bought a home just to have a place to sleep when he wasn’t working. That investment into the Orlando housing market cost roughly $150,000, but Russell’s investment in the region has grown tremendously since. The business Russell founded 10 years ago has turned into a publicly traded company with 750 employees, including 400 in Orlando.

In the meantime, the 26-year-old Russell, who resides in Southern California and Orlando, became the youngest American billionaire, according to a 2021 Forbes list. Russell is investing a chunk of his newfound wealth back into Central Florida with a $70 million contribution to Orlando-based nonprofit Central Florida Foundation, which was announced Dec. 27.