2015 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award
Like several other CS alumni, Russel Simmons is a member of the PayPal mafia, a moniker made famous by a Fortune magazine article that profiled the serial entrepreneurs who left the payment service to found other powerhouse Silicon Valley companies.
In late 1998, Simmons left graduate school at Illinois to join PayPal, a company co-founded by fellow Illinois alumnus Max Levchin (BS CS ‘97). As the software architect at PayPal, Simmons helped design the web-based payment system from scratch.
In 2004, Simmons co-founded Yelp with ECE ILLINOIS graduate and fellow PayPal employee Jeremy Stoppelman (BS ECE ’99). Simmons served as CTO at Yelp, the online review site of local businesses, until 2010.
Since leaving Yelp, Simmons has focused on exploring new approaches to education, and is currently working on a video-based foreign language learning product called Delvin Language.