Toronto Top Hat taking learning to the next level, raises $30m Cdn to date

Top Hat’s interactive, cloud-based teaching platform enables professors to engage students inside and outside the classroom with compelling content, tools and activities. Today, Top Hat is used at three-quarters of the top 1,000 colleges and universities in North America, including Indiana University, the Ohio State University, California State University and Michigan State University.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Top Hat was co-founded by Mike Silagadze and Mohsen Shahini in 2009. Both have engineering backgrounds from the University of Waterloo.

How are you being financed?

We have venture capital funding, and most recently we raised $22.5M USD Series C financing.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

Top Hat was the first BYOD classroom engagement platform in higher education and now millions of students use the platform. Our next step is to disrupt the $10B U.S. textbook industry. In November, we launched an online content marketplace where professors can create course materials and sell it around the world. It’s a revolutionary model for textbooks: the idea is to cut out the publisher and let professors sell directly to students and each other.

Top Hat has proven to increase engagement and participation by recognizing that the way students learn and interact has profoundly changed. Our one challenge is to help professors and schools to innovate and evolve the way they’re teaching in large format classrooms.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We have a few ways that we recruit great talent. The first is by creating a great internal culture that’s transparent and focused on growth and development.

We’re also very active in the Toronto startup community. We participate in numerous events every year like TechVibes Techfest, Startup Open House and the MARS Toronto Startup Job Fair. We also host our own events: we recently we held a standing-room-only open house at SPiN Toronto.

Who is your biggest competition?

We have our eyes on the traditional textbook publishers. The current model is broken and we’re looking to disrupt the industry just as Uber and Airbnb disrupted the cab and hotel industries.

Video - How Top Hat works