This is the personal webpage of Allen Cheng. Here are a few things you might be interested in.
Guides to Non-fiction Books
I used to write a lot of book notes, with summaries and commentary. They’re thorough, logical, and coherent, just the way I like them.
This gave me the idea to start Shortform. Our mission is to teach the world’s best ideas and make them more accessible. Our ultimate goal is to summarize and contextualize every meaningful idea published everyday, in every form of media (including books, articles, podcasts, and videos).
This means you’d be able to:
+ look up a news item or issue you care about and understand every important viewpoint on it, across every political and ideological spectrum
+ explore your favorite ideas to see how they’ve been taught by world experts throughout history
+ make new insights connecting ideas in one book to ideas in other books, building up a rich latticework of ideas in your mind
If this sounds like something you’d like, sign up for Shortform here and sample two free book guides. You can also download our free Chrome extension that lets you summarize any page in your browser.
Before Shortform, I co-founded PrepScholar and wrote a lot of popular guides (as well as managing our best-in-class product and content teams), so a lot of students and parents continue sending me questions about college admissions. I’d love to help as many people I can with my limited time.
The best way I’ve figured out is to publish all the advice I give publicly, on a newsletter and this Q&A page. This means when I help one student, I can help thousands.
What this means for you: if you send me a question, I will publish your question and my answer. Before publishing, I’ll anonymize your question, removing all identifying info (your name, email, high school, etc.), while still preserving enough info for context. Everyone wins—you get personal advice and thousands of other students benefit too.
I like advising startups and getting to know other founders in The Struggle (as Ben Horowitz calls it). Get in touch if you could use help on a problem or want to bounce ideas around.
Strategically, I’m most helpful in bootstrapped companies, getting to profitability, scaling from 1 to 100 people (and the management challenges that come with this), consumer products and marketing, and career track changes. (In contrast, I’m less helpful in raising huge VC rounds and B2B.)
Topically, I’m particularly interested in behavior change, education, healthcare, AI/NLP, and productivity. But I’m a dilettante and love learning about all the industries under the sun.
I don’t write often, but here are articles that give a good idea of what I like thinking about:
- Starting a Business around GPT-3 is a Bad Idea (HN Discussion 1 2)
- We Stopped Arguing about Chores after Making One Spreadsheet
- How I Built This Podcast: Patterns from 51+ Episodes
- Why Startups Fail: 59+ Postmortems and Patterns
- What is the Strategy of the Amazon-Berkshire-Chase Healthcare Startup Haven?
I maintain a few popular mailing lists along different topics. You can choose which lists you’re interested in, and you can unsubscribe anytime.
I’m currently founder at Shortform. Our mission is to teach the world’s best ideas and make them more accessible. Our ultimate goal is to summarize and contextualize every meaningful idea published everyday, in every form of media (including books, articles, podcasts, and videos).
I previously co-founded PrepScholar, an educational technology company. PrepScholar creates online learning programs that understand each student’s strengths/weaknesses and learning style, then customizes the learning experience. PrepScholar currently focuses on private education and test preparation. It’s bootstrapped and happily profitable.
I graduated from Harvard College with an AB/AM in Chemistry in 2009. I joined the MDPhD program at Harvard Medical School and MIT, and withdrew in 2013 to start PrepScholar. You can read more about my PhD research here.
Read about my reasoning and decision to leave medicine here, which my advisor called “a terrible idea.”