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(Duolingo app screen shots)

Duolingo, the language-learning startup headquartered in Pittsburgh, has operated a small outpost near Seattle in Bellevue, Wash., since last summer and now plans to grow its team there in 2019.

According to the company, there are eight employees working out of a WeWork co-working space at 10400 N.E. 4th St. in Bellevue, including a few engineers.

“In our ongoing effort to hire the best talent at Duolingo we’ve established an office in Seattle and plan to grow our headcount there by 8-10 new hires in 2019,” Duolingo VP of People Christine Raetsch told GeekWire. “We’ve found the quality of candidates from Seattle to be outstanding. We’re currently filling open positions in engineering, product management and design.”

Duolingo’s presence is notable because rival language-learning company Rosetta Stone, based in Arlington, Va., also has a Seattle office, and employs 30 people.

Duolingo is one of Pittsburgh’s hottest startups. With 150 total employees, 300 million users and valuation reported at $700 million, it now offers 75 language courses for 30 distinct languages, and its lessons still remain free.

Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn in his company’s Pittsburgh HQ in February 2018. (GeekWire photo / Taylor Soper)

GeekWire got the inside story on Duolingo’s mission and ambitions from co-founder and CEO Luis von Ahn during our month-long GeekWire HQ2 project in the Steel City last year. Among the highlights from our interview:

  • Bill Gates is a big fan of von Ahn, who made a trip to Seattle last year to meet with the Microsoft co-founder and talk about Duolingo. Gates tried to recruit von Ahn for a job at Microsoft Research years ago. “He understood that I wanted to own what I did,” von Ahn recalled. “I said, ‘I’m sure at Microsoft I can do really cool stuff but I want to own what I do.’ He said, ‘I can’t argue with that.’”
  • von Ahn also offered his take at the time on Rosetta Stone in which he said at the time that Duolingo’s product was superior to Rosetta Stone and he blasted his rival’s price point and marketing push, among other things. The comments even drew Rosetta Stone CEO John Hass to respond in the story comments.

Duolingo is the latest out-of-town tech company to set up shop in the Seattle area. This week, fast-growing logistics startup Flexport opened its own Seattle office after raising a $1 billion investment.

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