Semyon Dukach was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, coming to the U.S. with his family as a 10-year-old kid in 1979. He studied computer science at Columbia University (where he co-authored work on virtual worlds at IBM Research in 1988) and went on to grad school at MIT, where he created the Simple Network Payment Protocol (one of the earliest ways to transfer money on the Internet) and became a major player in the now-infamous MIT blackjack team. After university, Semyon played key roles at several startups, including Fast Engines (an enterprise software solution to speed up Web apps using the FastCGI protocol), Vert (producing bright outdoor displays on top of cabs with location-specific video ads), GottaFlirt.com (an online dating game), AccuRev (version control software), SMTP.com (a bootstrapped email delivery provider) and PDFFiller.com (online platform for editing and filling PDF forms).
In 2012 he left his position as CEO of SMTP to focus full-time on angel investing, mentoring young entrepreneurs, and supporting causes like the Carter Center and his own Troublemaker Award. He also serves as a judge for MassChallenge, and for the Lemelson / MIT student inventiveness prize. He windsurfs whenever possible and rides his bike through red lights, but sold his helicopter to quit while he's ahead.