A former ConnXus intern, DJ Hammett, shares his insightful experiences on internships and how his time as a ConnXus operations services specialist intern boosted his ability to launch his own company. Hammett, from Mason, OH, is currently an engineering student at Washington University in St. Louis. Co-founders Michael Ashley, DJ Hammett and Tsavo Knott began LingoHop, a foreign-language acquisition application, in November of 2015.
Here’s what Hammett has to share on his journey from a ConnXus intern to a young entrepreneur:
ConnXus: What was the inspiration for LingoHop’s mission?
DH: After spending years teaching foreign languages, Ashley and I realized there was an overwhelming problem in the language-learning space: a lack of personalization. A recent study found that the leading language software sees only 0.6% of their users complete their program, yet over 70% of Americans want to learn a new language. We realized that each person has their own language goals and learning style, and there was no solution that addressed this need. After speaking with Tsavo Knott, an expert in computer programming and development, the Lingohop concept was born. Co-founders Michael Ashley, DJ Hammett, and Tsavo Knott teamed up with the goal of creating a personalized environment for learning a new language and culture, regardless of your current skill level.
ConnXus: What were the main takeaways from your internship as a ConnXus operations services specialist?
DH: Having an interest in business, I believe my favorite aspect of my internship was being in the “startup” environment. Sitting in the back of meetings in which the ConnXus team effectively strategized to build a successful startup helped fuel my confidence in working to build one myself.
Having no experience with business before my internship, ConnXus helped nourish my interest in entrepreneurship, especially in the startup field. I learned that with a startup, there are many moving parts at once and one wrong move can lead to its demise. ConnXus understood the value in recognizing the needs and interests of the customers early on in order to produce the most effective product.
One of the most valuable things ConnXus taught me was the importance of being flexible and open to change. What appears to be a great idea to some may not be the most viable or efficient option. Through council and feedback and despite challenges, ConnXus has overcome obstacles and continues to grow every day. The team’s endurance to exceed expectations helps reminds me that not only are my team and I working to build a company from scratch, but we are also creating a product that will help people in many ways.
ConnXus: How many employees does LingoHop currently employ?
Tsavo Knott is the vice president and is spearheading the technical development of Lingohop, such as program design, programming, and SEO/SEM marketing planning.
Ramón Padilla-Reyes, a PhD candidate for Hispanic linguistics, is our director of Hispanic linguistics. Ramón’s research background is utilized to develop the methodology behind Lingohop and the content to make it happen. With his help, we’ve been able to create a user experience that is backed by years of scientific research, unlike many of our competitors. Our dynamic team is coming together to create the language-learning experience that will connect people across the world.
As Chief Product Officer, I work mainly on content development. We are slowly pacing out content inside of a beta version of LingoHop, and we are hoping to complete this phase within the first quarter of 2016.
ConnXus: Starting a business is very time-consuming. What are your main priorities during these early, critical stages of LingoHop?
DH: Most of our time is split between two main projects. First, we’re dedicating a lot of time to preparing for our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. We plan to utilize the amazing community behind Kickstarter this April to help bring Lingohop to life. Second, we’re seeing a majority of our time spent towards beta development. We’re working hard to put the proper design, code and content behind Lingohop to get it in the hands of eager users before the next holiday season.
ConnXus: What distinguishes Lingohop from other language apps?
DH: Most language-learning programs offer an age-old approach to learning. Lingohop will transcend this norm by providing a platform in which the user is placed at the center of the experience. People will not only be able to learn at their own pace, but also in a completely personalized environment. The needs of a traveling business person, for example, are completely different those than a group of students backpacking abroad. We’ve designed Lingohop to not only recognize those differences, but to make them the foundation of your experience. At the end of the day, however, we’re simply trying to do our part to connect the world by creating an experience that is more than just a language.
ConnXus: What advice can you offer other millennial, prospective entrepreneurs?
DH: My best advice would be to not rush the process. It’s definitely important to keep goals and do your best to reach them but plans will almost never work out as you expect. It’s important to remember that you are trying to build a business so there are a multitude of moving parts at play from the company name to legal actions. Try and find a great mentor that will help with the process and to verify that all bases are covered to create a solid foundation for a successful start-up.
Lingohop was recently mentioned in a Huffington Post article. Select to read the full article