News Room

The U of I breeding ground

Article Source: Chicago Tribune, Business Section, April 28, 2012


Max Levchin, who graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in computer science in 1997, helped found the online payments company in 1998 and served as chief technology officer. EBay acquired PayPal in 2002. Levchin went on to found Slide, a developer of social applications that was acquired by Google. He is chairman of the board of Yelp and is an active investor in startups.



The online video company’s three co-founders met as early employees at PayPal. Two of them, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, attended U. of I. in the early 2000s. Google acquired YouTube in 2006. Chen and fellow YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley run Avos Systems, an Internet company that last year bought social bookmarking service Delicious from Yahoo.



The online review site was founded in 2004 by two U. of I. graduates and former PayPal employees, Jeremy Stoppelman (computer engineering, 1999) and Russel Simmons (computer science, 1998). Stoppelman is CEO of Yelp, which went public last month. Simmons left the company in 2010 but stayed on as an adviser.


‘Mafia Wars’

Roger Dickey, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from U. of I. in 2005, founded a social gaming company that he sold to Zynga in 2008. While at Zynga, he created “Mafia Wars” and several other popular titles. He left the social gaming company last year and continues to advise and invest in startups.


Wolfram Research

Stephen Wolfram, a professor of physics, mathematics and computer science at U. of I., launched the software company in 1987. Steve Jobs appeared at the company’s launch of Mathematica, its core computational software program, in 1998, while he was president of NeXT. Google co-founder Sergey Brin interned at Wolfram Research in 1993. The company’s headquarters has remained in Champaign, and its Wolfram Alpha answer engine technology is used in Siri, the personal assistant built into the iPhone 4S.