Cloud-based teaching platform Top Hat has raised $22.5 million in a series C funding round from Union Square Ventures, in addition to existing investors Emergence Capital, Georgian Partners, iNovia Capital, Golden Venture Partners, Version One Ventures, and SoftTech VC.
Founded out of Toronto in 2009, Top Hat provides interactive software that helps educators create and distribute academic content and engage with students using their own devices. For example, the Top Hat Lecture product enables a professor to display a presentation on a lecture theater’s main screen and on a student’s own person device simultaneously. It also allows the lecturer to take attendance, annotate slides, or run polls among students. Then there’s interactive texts, which are pre-made multimedia content to help students study, and the Top Hat marketplace for finding interactive textbooks, questions, and homework.
The company had raised around $20 million before now, and with another $22.5 million in the bank, the company says it will now “accelerate the development of new solutions for creating and distributing academic content,” serving as a more affordable alternative to traditional textbooks.
Major textbook publishers such as Pearson and Barnes & Noble Education have both struggled of late, with many students ditching pricey textbook purchases for rentals and digital alternatives instead. And this is one trend that Top Hat is looking to capitalize on.
“Textbook publishing is often seen as a ‘bad’ business for how it treats professors and financially drains students,” said Mike Silagadze, cofounder and CEO at Top Hat, in a press release. “We’re seeing this bankrupt strategy play out right now in Pearson’s recent struggles, widely credited to a lack of digital integrations and the underestimation of tech’s impact on higher ed. At Top Hat, our goal is to make teaching fun and effective. We’re fortunate to have found a group of investors who are very founder-friendly, respect the progress we’ve made to date, and can guide us as we continue to displace traditional textbook publishers and improve student performance.”
In 2016, Top Hat grew from 90 to more than 200 employees across its hubs in Toronto and Denver, and claims that its platform is now deployed in more than three-quarters of the top 1,000 schools in North America.
As part of its investment, Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger will join Top Hat’s board of directors.