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27 Companies Founded by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) People

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has produced some of the biggest entrepreneurs that have changed the world.

Written by Leonardo Hadi · 6 min read >
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#1 – Tesla

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003. Martin Eberhard graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. The next Tesla employees were Elon Musk, J.B. Straubel, and Ian Wright. Martin Eberhard served as the CEO until 2008. Today, Tesla is the largest electric vehicle and battery company with a $256 Billion market capitalization.

#2 – PayPal

PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL) was founded by Max Levchin, Luke Nosek, and Peter Thiel in 1998. Max Levchin graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1997. Luke Nosek also graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. PayPal provides a worldwide online payment system and money transfers service. In 2019, PayPal revenue was $17.72 Billion with a market capitalization of $228.29 Billion.

Many of PayPal’s employees and founders later founded well-known technology startups, known as “PayPal Mafia.” PayPal is the origin of many billion-dollars companies known today, such as YouTube, Yelp, Linked In, SpaceX, Reddit, and many more.

#3 – YouTube

YouTube was founded by Jawed Karim, Steven Chen, and Chad Hurley in 2005. Jawed Karim graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Steven Chen also graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2002.

YouTube is an open video-sharing platform that allows anyone to upload, view, share, comment on videos, and subscribe. YouTube platform has 2 billion active users, which marks them as the most popular video-sharing platform with a revenue of $15.15 Billion in 2019. Google acquired YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 Billion.

#4 – Oracle

Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) was founded by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner, and Ed Oats in 1977. Larry Ellison attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s. Bob Miner graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1963 with a degree in mathematics.

Oracle is a technology company that focuses on database solutions, cloud computing, and enterprise software. In 2019, Oracle was the second-largest software company after Microsoft 2019. Oracle revenue was $39.5 Billion with a market capitalization of $169.3 Billion.

#5 – Yelp

Yelp (NYSE: YELP) was founded by Russell Simmons and Jeremy Stoppelman in 2004. Russell Simmons graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Jeremy Stoppelman obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1999.

The company mainly hosts yelp.com and mobile apps that publish open reviews about restaurants and local businesses. In 2019, Yelp’s revenue was $1 Billion with a market capitalization of 1.68 Billion.

#6 – AMD

Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD) was founded by Jerry Sanders III, who graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1958. Jerry incorporated AMD in 1969 with seven of his friends from Fairchild Semiconductor. AMD was a $90 billion semiconductor company with a revenue of $6.73 Billion in 2019.

#7 – Delta

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) was founded by C.E. Woolman in 1929. C.E. Woolman graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering. Delta Air Lines was started as a crop dusting company to combat boll weevil destroyed cotton crops.

Delta Air Lines grew to become one of the major US Airlines that operates over 5400 daily flights with 325 destinations in 52 countries on six continents. In 2019, Delta Air Lines’s revenue was $47 Billion with a $38 Billion market capitalization.

#8 – Grainger

William W. Grainger founded Grainger (NYSE: GWW) in 1927. William W. Grainger graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Grainger supplies industrial products that include tools, fasteners, lighting, motors, and more. Grainger serves 3 million customers worldwide with an $11.49 Billion revenue in 2019 and an $18.92 Billion market capitalization.

#9 – LSV Asset Management

LSV Asset Management was founded by Josef Lakonishok, Ph.D., William G. Karnes, Professor of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in 1994. LSV Asset Management is a quantitative hedge fund company specializing in value equity and behavioral finance with assets under management of $120 Billion in 2019 for 350 institutional investors worldwide.

#10 – GoFundMe

GoFundme was founded by Andrew Ballester and Brad Damphousse in 2010. Andrew Ballester graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 2003. GoFundMe is the #1 free fundraiser and crowdfunding platform. GoFundMe has raised over $9 Billion on the platform with contributions from over 120 million donors.

#11 – Baskin Robins

Baskin Robbins was founded by Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins in 1953. Burt Baskin graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in business administration in 1935. Baskin Robbins is the world’s largest ice cream chain brand with more than 8000 locations in 50 countries. Baskin Robbins is known for the “31 flavors” slogan. Barrack Obama worked at Baskin Robbins in the summer of 1978, retrieved from Business Insider.

#12 – Playboy

Hugh Hefner founded Playboy in 1953. Hugh Hefner graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in creative writing and art in 1949. Playboy is an iconic lifestyle and entertainment magazine. Playboy has grown into a media and entertainment empire despite its controversy.

#13 – NFL

George Halas co-founded the national Football League (NFL) in 1922. George Halas graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. George Halas was also the founder of the Chicago Bears. NFL is one of the major North American professional sports leagues.

#14 – Siebel

Siebel Systems was founded by Thomas Siebel and Patricia House in 1993. Thomas Siebel graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a B.A. in History, MBA, MS in Computer Science, and an honorary engineering doctorate. Siebel Systems is a software company that specializes in Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Oracle acquired Siebel Systems for $5.8 Billion in 2005.

#15 – Hooters

Lynn D. Stewart founded hooters in 1983. Lynn D. Steward attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and played for Fighting Illini alongside Dick Butkus, Archie Sutton, and Jim Grabowski. Hooters is a global restaurant chain with 430 restaurants in 28 countries.

Hooters was first to open in Clearwater, Florida, on April’s Fools Day in 1983. Lynn D. Steward and his business partners established Hooters as an inside joke because they were sure that they would fail on the venture.

They had placed a tombstone bearing their names just outside the restaurant before the opening. In an interview, Lynn was sure that he would be broke in 6 months. Surprisingly, the restaurant turned a profit in just 4 months and has grown rapidly since $300 million in revenue in 1996.

#16 – The Weather Channel

John S. Coleman founded the Weather Channel in 1982. John S. Coleman graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1957. The Weather Channel broadcasts weather news and forecast, including entertainment and documentaries programming related to weather, with over 79 million subscribers. The Weather Channel now is part of IBM since 2016 under Watson and Cloud Platform business unit.

#17 – Match.com

Match.com was founded by Peng Ong and Gary Kremen in 1993. Peng Ong graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a master’s degree in computer science. Match.com is the pioneer in the online dating industry serving over 24 countries in 15 languages.

#18 – Mosaic

Mosaic was founded and developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. Marc Andreessen graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1993.

Eric Bina graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science in 1986 and 1988. Mosaic was the first web browser that made a breakthrough in the mainstream application and popularized the internet.

Mosaic was the first web browser that included bookmarks, icons, attractive interfaces, graphics, which made it more user-friendly to most people. The launch of Mosaic marked the first internet boom and transformed technology, commerce, and communication.

#19 – Netscape

Netscape was founded by Marc Andreessen and James Clark in 1994. Marc Andreessen graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1993. Netscape created the JavaScript programming language and SSL encrypted security for the web browsers, which are still being used today. AOL acquired Netscape for $4.2 billion in 1999.

#20 – Mozilla

Brendan Eich founded Mozilla in 1998. Brendan Eich graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a master’s degree in computer science in 1985. Brendan Eich is the creator of the JavaScript programming language. Mozilla is free and open-source software that produced Mozilla Firefox web browser and Mozilla Thunderbird email client.

#21 – Harlem Globetrotters

Abe Saperstein founded Harlem Globetrotters in 1927. Abe Saperstein attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Harlem Globetrotters is famous for its basketball exhibition show. They have played more than 26,000 games in 124 countries.

#22 – Pampered Chef

Doris Kelley Christopher founded Pampered Chef in her basement in 1980. Doris Kelly Christopher graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in consumer and environmental sciences.

Pampered Chef is a global multi-marketing company that sells kitchen tools, cookbooks, and food products. Pampered Chef popularized direct customer sales by hosting party and cooking demonstrations. Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired pampered Chef in 2002.

#23 – KiwiCo

KiwiCo was founded by Yu Pan, Sandra Oh Lin, and Yael Pasternak Valek. in 2011. Yu Pan attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. KiwiCo delivers innovative STEM, science, and art product kits for children to provide hands-on science projects and stimulate early development creativity. KiwiCo has produced 20 million products in 40 countries.

#24 – Yammer

Alan Braverman founded yammer in 2008. Alan Braverman graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1995. Yammer is a social networking service for the enterprise. Microsoft acquired Yammer for $1.2 Billion in 2012.

#25 – BET Networks

BET Networks was founded by Robert L. Johnson and Sheila Johnson in 1979. Robert L. Johnson graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in social studies in 1968. Sheila Johnson graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in music education. BET Networks is a paid subscription television channel targeting African-American audiences with over 88 million subscribers.

#26 – Suze Orman Financial Group

Suze Orman graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1976. Suze Orman gained popularity since she hosted The Suze Orman Show on CNBC from 2002 to 2015.

Suze Orman has written more than a dozen bestseller books in personal finance. She has won two Emmy Awards and eight Gracie Awards. She has been a guest for Larry King Live over 30 times and Oprah Winfrey Show for over 29 times.

#27 – Malwarebytes

Marcin Kleczynski founded Malwarebytes in 2008. Marcin Klezynski graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2012. Malwarebytes is an internet security company that specializes in the smartphone, personal computers, and enterprise.

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Written by Leonardo Hadi
MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Quantitative Fund Investor. Professional Engineer. Operations Professional. Profile

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