Top Hat, the leading active learning platform for higher education, today announced it has raised $55M USD in Series D equity and debt financing. The round was co-led by existing investors Georgian Partners and Inovia Capital, and supported by the rest of Top Hat’s existing equity investors, including Union Square Ventures, Emergence Capital and Leaders Fund. Combined with debt financing from BMO Technology and Innovation Banking Group, this funding will enable Top Hat to continue to accelerate the disruption of traditional textbooks and course materials in order to deliver greater educational ROI to students. Exclusive partnerships with Fountainhead Press and Bluedoor Publishing augment Top Hat’s broader strategy to drive the digital transformation of the traditional textbook industry by scaling the depth and breadth of content delivered through its leading all-in-one teaching platform.
“Higher education is undergoing a sea change brought on by the massive price of a degree, combined with an economy undergoing radical transformation,” said Mike Silagadze, founder and CEO, Top Hat. “This has created a demand to raise the impact of educational outcomes. With the support and confidence of our investors, customers, and employees, Top Hat will continue building on the exponential growth we’ve achieved to empower professors to work smarter and more effectively so they can improve the educational return on investment for their students.”
Enabling the shift of traditional publishers from print to digital
Top Hat has already signed exclusive deals with Fountainhead Press and Bluedoor Publishing to transform their print-only content into digital courseware. This content will be further infused with interactive elements to support active learning, while remaining flexible enough to be tailored to suit the needs of each individual course.
Today’s funding will enable Top Hat to scale partnerships with traditional publishers to create more engaging and effective course experiences. More high-quality publisher content will be delivered directly on Top Hat’s easy-to-use active learning platform, empowering professors with great course materials and the right tools to improve the teaching and learning experience.
Additionally, today’s financing will enable Top Hat to further invest in its strategy to empower professors to author, adopt, curate and adapt course materials to create personalised and responsive learning experiences. Top Hat already has introduced six best-in-class all-in-one digital course solutions, Top Hat Intro Courses, which provide all the content and assessment tools professors need to deliver their perfect course, while remaining fully customisable to fit any classroom.
As the only tech-first higher education teaching platform focused on improving student outcomes, Top Hat seamlessly combines interactive textbooks, lecture slides, quizzes, and assignments all on one platform, supporting student learning before, during, and after class. The new funding will enable Top Hat to multiply investment in high quality, engaging course materials to deliver through its platform.
Building on a year of aggressive growth and huge impact
Today’s funding comes on the heels of a successful 2019. Top Hat expanded to 400 employees and more than 2.7 million students are enrolled in courses using Top Hat at 750 of the top 1,000 higher education institutions in North America.
Top Hat announced a number of significant developments in 2019:
Top Hat evolved its go-to-market strategy to make all Top Hat products (previously sold individually) available on a single platform and supported by new student performance insight tools—all for one lower fee. With the aim of empowering professors to create more engaging and effective learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom, this approach equips educators with the tools they need to positively impact educational outcomes, while lowering the costs borne by students. This strategic move makes Top Hat the only teaching platform that enables professors to facilitate active learning and get feedback on student progress before, during, and after class.
To simplify the process of course planning for professors, Top Hat also launched Top Hat Intro Courses. These all-in-one teaching solutions come complete with the content and instructional activities required to teach a course from beginning to end and include everything from readings to assessments, while remaining fully customisable to fit any classroom. They also provide professors with insight on each student’s performance and the ability to act on that insight to improve student outcomes.
Last year, Top Hat announced a strategic partnership agreement with independent textbook publisher Fountainhead Press, to offer high-quality, affordable course materials with flexible content and interactive elements to promote student engagement.
Top Hat also announced the recipients of its first Top Hat Scholarship, which awarded a combined $100,000 USD to five exceptional North American students for their academic achievements and the positive learning environments they helped foster. These scholarships will enable the students to continue their academic achievements and lay the foundation for their contributions to the broader community.
Internally, Top Hat made a number of key senior additions to the team and was recognised for its work culture:
Bhavin Shah joined the company as its first Chief Technology Officer to lead the engineering team.
Meghan Smith joined the company as Vice President of People & Culture, to oversee human resources and culture, with a focus on implementing people-centric strategies to drive growth.
Serial innovator Kristen Hamilton joined Top Hat’s Board of Directors, bringing with her a unique combination of passion for helping students succeed and experience with growing two start-ups through to successful exits.
Top Hat won Tech in Motion’s 2019 Best Tech Work Culture at the annual Timmy Awards ceremony, taking home the “Community Favorite” award after more than 40,000 votes were tallied.
What Top Hat investors and partners say
“Top Hat continues to deliver outstanding growth based on very strong adoption of the only tech-first teaching platform for higher education,” said Justin LaFayette, Managing Partner, Georgian Partners. “By amplifying its content strategy through publisher partnerships and supporting professors to create their own customizable digital course materials, Top Hat will continue to lead and transform the market to better support professors and students.”
“As university students rebel against ridiculous textbook prices much as music consumers did in the early 2000s, Top Hat has emerged a visionary leader by bringing students and educators together in a collaborative digital teaching and learning experience that improves outcomes while reducing costs,” said Shawn Abbott, Partner, Inovia Capital. “My partnership is proud to be part of the massive societal impact of building an enduring, trusted platform on which our children are being better educated, affordably.”
BMO Bank of Montreal
“The momentum that Top Hat continues to experience is driven, in large part, by the strength of its leadership team, and we expect the company will continue to gain traction in higher education,” said Devon Dayton, Managing Director, Technology & Innovation Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal. “We are excited to be working alongside Top Hat and are eager to support them as they accelerate their growth.”
“For many reasons, students no longer value traditional textbooks. By exclusively partnering with Top Hat to deliver our content on their active learning platform, we are newly empowered to meet the changing needs of students and instructors,” said Scott Timian, founder and CEO, Fountainhead Press. “Fountainhead Press’s quality, interactive content combined with Top Hat’s assessment tools for measuring student learning and engagement produces total course solutions at a reasonable price. Together, we’re better equipped than ever to capture this evolving market.”
“Bluedoor is excited about partnering with Top Hat to transform high-quality print content into an engaging digital experience for both instructors and students,” said Jon K. Earl, CEO, Bluedoor Publishing. “We have chosen to exclusively partner with Top Hat because of its robust delivery platform and proven success with increasing student engagement and improving learning outcomes.”
About Top Hat
Top Hat’s interactive, cloud-based teaching platform enables professors to engage students inside and outside the classroom with compelling content, tools, and activities. Millions of students at 750 leading North American colleges and universities use the Top Hat teaching platform. To learn more, visit tophat.com.