StartOut Education Founders: Devon Saliga and Beepboop are putting teachers front and center

Devon, when did you first become interested in learning foreign languages?

Growing up as a closeted gay kid, I was looking for an escape from my reality. Learning different languages and cultures gave me that and filled me with the hope that there was something more to the world than my conservative surroundings. When I was older, I had the privilege of studying Japanese at Dartmouth College. At Dartmouth, I was exposed to this highly effective teaching method referred to on campus as “drill,” where a single instructor could engage a whole classroom in these interactive rapid-paced speaking exercises. I witnessed my peers going from being super embarrassed uttering a single word in a new language to confidently forming sentences on the fly after just a few weeks of drill.

What did you do after you graduated?

My Japanese abilities were critical for landing my job at Goldman Sachs. Working on global teams made it clear that I was fortunate to be born with English as my first language. If you didn’t speak English well, you were left behind. Languages are the pathway to a more enriching life.

Is that what sparked the decision to launch a company?

Correct. Knowing you have a unique insight into a global learning problem is quite motivating, and I didn’t see why these exceptional teaching methods weren’t more widespread. This led me back to Dartmouth after my finance career to study language teaching methods.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

My dad and his siblings run a machine shop together, so I grew up in an entrepreneurial house. I think it’s always been in my blood. I knew being an entrepreneur would be a complicated life, but I also saw how fulfilling it could be.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

The hardest thing for me was improving my storytelling abilities related to fundraising. Nobody’s in entrepreneurship because they want to build a product that will change the world. Your ability to tell a compelling story is what unlocks the capital to develop your product. Spending time practicing your account comes at the cost of not extinguishing fires.

How’d you first discover StartOut?

I learned about the organization through an in-person event in New York City, and I applied twice before we got into the Growth Lab. The accelerator was a game-changer for us, and I’m so grateful for the program. If I had StartOut when I first started Beepboop, our trajectory would have been very different. I didn’t realize the power of community early on, and it led me to try to do too much by myself. It takes a whole village to build a successful company and StartOut is that village for me.

You can connect with Devon on LinkedIn for the latest updates on Beepboop and follow our blog on Medium for monthly founder stories!

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StartOut’s mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ entrepreneurs. www.startout.org