|Andrew Ng: On Princeton, Entrepreneurship & Chesscademy|
|By Jennifer Shahade|
|August 18, 2013|
Andrew Ng is a chessmaster, former Cadet Champion and a Princeton sophomore studying Operations Research and Financial Engineering. Andrew was also a member of the Championship US Amateur Team Princeton squad, featured on the May 2013 Chess Life Magazine cover.
Ng is also beginning his entrepreneurial career, having recently co-founded chesscademy.com along with Francis Hinson and Sabar Dasgupta, both of whom used to play chess competitively. Andrew talked to CLO about his new site, http://www.chesscademy.com/ and his passions for chess, academics and coaching.
Chess Life Online (CLO): Did chess help you get into Princeton?
Andrew Ng (AN): I'm sure chess didn't hurt my college application process :) It was certainly a core theme that I referenced throughout my applications, with most of my essays drawing from my experiences as a chess player. I enjoy school immensely! I'm involved in a few clubs - I'm a director of the Entrepreneurship Club and an officer for the Chinese cultural association. I've met some incredible people and I'm looking forward to returning this September.
CLO: When did you decide to start Chesscademy?
AN: The idea for Chesscademy came to me when I founded a chess club at a local elementary school in my freshman year of high school. Every Friday for four years, I would walk over to the Lincroft Elementary School and teach an after school club to more than 50 kids between kindergarten and 5th grade. I also began my professional coaching career around the same time and started spending less time at tournaments and more time with my students. I had developed my passion for chess into something not only beneficial for me, but for others. However, as much as I enjoyed teaching, I couldn't seem to satisfy all of my students' needs or questions - and that's where the concept of Chesscademy was conceived. It would allow for an individual to cater to a countless population of people looking to learn chess.
CLO: How did you meet the other team-members and start working on chesscademy specifically?
AN: My interest in entrepreneurship was piqued when I met Francis Hinson and Sabar Dasgupta. They invited me to work on a tech startup with them that sought to introduce a new approach to journalism. After developing the application, Francis actually approached me with another idea that utilized my chess background - incidentally, he pitched the concept of Chesscademy to me! Originally, it was intended to be a two-day project for a hackathon. The only functionality would be short video lessons illustrating different chess topics.
We decided to take a more structured approach to the relationship between videos and exercises and the curriculum of courses, lessons, videos, exercises, and quizzes was born. Finally, we introduced a merit system that uses badges and points to mark the user's progress over time. With a hefty task ahead of us, we brought Sabar onto the team and have been working on Chesscademy for a little over two months. We were founded on June 7th, 2013.
CLO: What's different about Chesscademy?
AN: We looked at other chess sites and realized that our ideas was unique in the sense that it was the first stride towards an e-learning environment that utilizes a curriculum for learning chess. Other sites have plenty of material, but they are not available in way that's easily accessible by the user in a progressive format. Chesscademy intends to be free for all its users with a subscription service for premium content in the future.
We also noticed that many other chess websites that dominated the existing industry were operating on legacy view technologies. We realized that although we could offer great content and a powerful curriculum, we needed to differentiate ourselves from other sites with an intuitive, sleek interface that would create a modern user experience. Therefore, we used new technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery to create a fluid design.
CLO:How does your experience in chess help you as a young entrepreneur?
AN: Chess helped me develop my interpersonal skills. By interacting with people from a young age, I feel as if chess has introduced me to some invaluable skills that are not limited to entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, there is an interesting metaphor that can be drawn between chess and entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur requires you to innovate and disrupt markets, not unlike discovering novelties in opening lines.
CLO: What are your future plans?
AN: I'm not sure as to what career I want to pursue, but I still want to find the time to keep chess in my life. I hope to become a Grandmaster one day, but I don't have any specific timeline for it. After I graduate college I hope to obtain my MBA and work for a tech startup.
Go to http://www.chesscademy.com/ to try it out for yourself, and for more on chess & business, watch recent US Chess Scoop videos with GM Julio Sadorra and Adithya Balasubramanian.