Luminar Technologies Inc. is going public
SPIE Fellow Jason Eichenholz and SPIE Member Austin Russell, CTO and CEO of Luminar Technologies, are jumping light years ahead as their autonomous-vehicle tech startup reaches a pivotal milestone for their company and the automotive industry.
Luminar is merging with acquisition firm Gores Metropoulos Inc., and will receive $400 million from that company as well as $170 million from investors such as GoPro Inc. founder Nick Woodman and the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. In a prepared statement, Alec Gores, CEO of Gores Metropoulos, noted, "Luminar represents a rare opportunity to invest in the leading player in autonomous-driving technology for cars and trucks."
Founded in 2012, Luminar has experienced steady growth while landing big venture capital investment. According to Allied Market Research, the autonomous-driving market is expected to be worth $556 billion by 2026.
As Eichenholz told the Orlando Business Journal earlier this year, "Luminar's focus in 2020 has been on further development of the company's sensors to allow them to better determine the locations of objects on the road and determine what they are." As Luminar's sensors get closer to mass deployment, Volvo plans to integrate Luminar's software and hardware into its global vehicle platform by 2022.
In a statement to Bloomberg News, Austin noted that Luminar chose to go public now since, due to uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, the boom in blank-check company deal-making offers a more secure way to access funds than an IPO. "By the time this is over, we will have brought in north of $500 million," Russell said. "That allows us to make these kinds of strategic investments and additionally accelerate our programs and timelines and customer adoption."
Luminar co-founder and CEO Austin Russell, left, and co-founder and CTO Jason Eichenholz pose in Luminar's Orlando facility. Credit: Luminar Technologies Inc.
Long ties to SPIE
Eichenholz and Russell have a long history of involvement with SPIE. Russell has attended multiple SPIE events, and his team has contributed working vehicles for interactive display purposes at SPIE Photonics West. Eichenholz has been deeply involved in SPIE from the beginning of his career, starting as an SPIE student-chapter leader during his time at CREOL. Since then, he has remained active, volunteering on numerous committees and participating as an SPIE Startup Challenge judge, among other roles. In 2018, Luminar's Model-G 3D LiDAR won a prestigious SPIE Prism Award. In addition, as exhibitors and job-fair participants, the Luminar team has been responsible for recruiting optical engineering talent for their laser-based sensing system.
"My involvement with SPIE for the last 20 years has had a significant positive impact on my professional career," noted Eichenholz. "The numerous technical and service leadership opportunities made available to me early in my career, in addition to the exceptional people I met through SPIE, not only propelled my journey from student to executive, but also helped me become a better leader and entrepreneur."
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