Jeff Tang

Jeff Tang is the author of Athens and founder and CEO of Athens Research. He's responsible for managing the open-source project and the people who work on it.

  • Name: Jeff Tang

  • Title: CEO

  • Area of focus: Product, engineering, community, operations

  • Location: Nomadic 🚣

  • Discord: @Jeff Tang 🏛

  • GitHub: @tangjeff0

  • Twitter: @tangjeff0

  • Pronouns: he/him

Ask me about

  • Learning and productivity

  • Startups and tech

  • Please DM me about anything. If I don't respond, just follow-up after a day or so!


I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. My parents migrated from China 30 years ago to pursue the American Dream. Why did they come to Cincinnati? The University of Cincinnati was the only school to give my mom a scholarship. She went on to get a PhD in chemistry. My dad also got a scholarship, but at Xavier University. He was the first Asian to get an MBA from Xavier. My mom is now a chemist, and my dad is a bookkeeper, Chinese-American translator, and small-time landlord. I like to think I get book smarts from my mom and street smarts from my dad.

From 2015-17, I went to Rice University in Houston, Texas. My freshman year, I majored in chemical engineering and did part-time sales at Tesla Motors, evangelizing the product and giving test drives. My sophomore year, I switched my major to sociology and studied abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. That summer I did Digital Marketing in Santiago, Chile at GroupRaise, a TechStars startup.

What would've been my junior year, I went to a coding bootcamp in San Francisco. I worked on a language learning chatbot startup for a few months, then interned at LiftIgniter (YC W15) as a frontend engineer.

What would've been my senior year, I went back to Rice, switched my major to computer science, then after a week took another leave of absence. I started doing interview prep like crazy, knowing I needed good work experience if I was going to drop the degree. I got a 4-month contract at Strata Labs as a backend engineer, as their first employee. They were later acquired by Ripple. Afterwards, I interned at Microsoft as a software engineer.

I got a full-time offer from Microsoft, but knew it wasn't for me, so I went back home to Ohio to work on startup ideas. I worked on a computer vision fitness app. A few months into it, Conor, the founder of Roam Research, asked me to interview from our interactions on Twitter.

I was rejected because I didn't have Clojure experience. I still wanted to work on knowledge graphs, and I believed everyone else should also have that right — to extend and own their second brains.

Open-source was the only option. Now, I have no doubt OSS will lead to the best product, platform, and community.

Communication Style

I am generally direct when I communicate. I try to "get to the point" if there is one. I think I am pretty good at being direct without being rude, but please let me know if I am and I will apologize and try to correct it.

Sometimes I do not explain my reasoning or ideas enough. Please interrupt me to explain something if it wasn't clear.

I can speak authoritatively. This is good when I am right and bad when I am wrong. Don't let my confident tone convince you of what I'm saying if it doesn't make sense from first principles.


I learn really fast. I believe everything boils down to skill acquisition and learning. I believe all learning is the same, regardless if it is physical, mental, or psychological. I am mostly a self-taught programmer. Athens is my first Clojure project.

My dream is for everyone to learn how to learn anything. If I ever write a book, it will be called "Learning How to Learn."


My greatest weakness is my ego/pride. The Ancient Greeks called this hubris. They illustrate this in the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. Sometimes I push the limits too hard, and I hurt myself, such as when I hurt myself lifting too much or overworking.

Sometimes I am impatient and have commitment issues. I quit things if I don't immediately see the point or if I don't immediately progress with them. I had 3 different majors throughout my time at school. The longest I held a job before Athens was 4 months.

Perhaps I could never commit to school or a job because I always wanted to do what I'm doing now. My friends and family can confirm I've wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was kid, starting with selling parking lot maintenance services in high school. Multiple failed startup projects later, I feel like I've been preparing for Athens my whole life. Now that I'm here, I would love to work on Athens for the rest of my life. This is the happiest I've ever been. I won't delude myself, a lot of startups fail. But if it doesn't work out, I bet I'd just start another startup.

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