I remember learning here that "start out" differs from "start" in that it implies you do something in the beginning and later follow other things, making changes of flow. Does "start off" mean the same thing as "start out"?
mo29) While you can learn the meanings of new words by using a dictionary, you may also be able to determine word meanings by recognizing word parts and using clues. Take, for example, the following sentences: “I can’t imagine a more credulous person. He actually believed I saw a flying saucer on the way home.” Knowing that the root cred means “belief” and that the suffix ous means “full of” helps to guess the meaning. We can start off, then, by saying that to be credulous is to be “full of belief.” Yet what exactly does that mean? You can imagine a bottle “full of juice or wine,” but how can a person be “full of belief”?
He started out as a sanitary inspector but ended up as a company president.
and, as such, contrasts semantically with 'end up'.
'Start off' means little more than 'start', but may often have the slight additional implication of the first step in a perhaps potentially lengthy or complex process, e.g.
Proving Fermat's last theorem is likely to take us years, but we could start off by doing a few preliminary equations.