Learning a new language is not an easy task. That alone was enough to inspire Michigan State University alumnus Seth Killian to create a user-friendly platform that not only eases the learning process, but also accelerates the task.
Lingco is an online language instruction platform for schools that instructors use to create, assign, and grade assignments in their language courses. It makes predictions on what parts of a language students know and makes recommendations to instructors on what their students are ready to work on next. This results in each student getting a personalized learning experience based on what they know and need to work on.
Killian was inspired by his time abroad to create an easier way to learn a new language. After gaining real life experience, he strived to create a system that would be unique for each user.
“All the other approaches we were using, especially in the classroom, were really a one size fits all,” Killian said. “I was looking to have something that could kind of adapt to each student and to personalize their work based on what exactly they need to work on.”
Instructors use Lingco as a one-stop shop for everything from creating lesson plans to assigning exams. They can also establish rules to guide their students through lesson plans.
Lingco was named an Entrepreneurial Eight finalist at SXSW in spring 2020. Although the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Killian was still honored to be a finalist.
“A lot of MSU entries have made it to be finalists in previous years, so it was nice to see Lingco listed with the other companies,” Killian said.
Killian started this journey during his junior year at MSU and throughout his senior year. After seeing the success Lingco had in MSU classrooms, the company branched out to universities across the country.
The MSU Innovation Center offered Killian resources and education in order to start up Lingco. From learning how to pitch an idea to refining a product, Killian fulfilled his business dreams.
“I think MSU gave me a lot of resources and mentorship and that’s what helped get me going,” Killian added.
In the beginning of Lingco’s journey, Killian featured the idea at an MSU start-up weekend to gain attention and attract potential collaborators. Afterward he attended multiple showcases and competitions hosted by MSU, and began crafting his idea.
“One of my co-founders was actually a mentor at one of the events I attended,” Killian said. “It was really helpful with finding people to join me. Every step of the way, MSU has been involved in some capacity.”
Killian had help through MSU outside of the entrepreneurship world as well. Killian used his learnings from MSU’s computer science in the College of Engineering in order to physically create the platform, and also with the Department of Romance and Classical Studies for the actual content and features on the platform.
Killian plans to expand Lingco’s service area beyond higher education in the coming years.
“I think this is the point where we are really working on scaling,” Killian said. “We’d like to go from being in a few hundred schools and universities to being in every high school or college. It’s one thing to build something for ten thousand or so people, now we’re talking about building something for a hundred thousand people or five hundred thousand people.”
Paul Jaques, managing director of Venture Creation for the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, said working with Killian over the past several years has been a rewarding process.
“I knew from day one when Seth pitched his idea at ‘Startup Weekend’ that he had something special and would do whatever was in his power to make it happen,” Jaques added. “I have loved watching his journey as a student and going through the Conquer Accelerator and Techstars programs.”