Top Hat in 4 Years by Alexander Gornyi


The post was originally published in Russian on Startup of the Day. Alexander kindly agreed to republish what we think is of great value to our readers.

As it was well known even in Ancient Rome, today’s youth is completely different from our generation. There is no respect for the elders in them, they are not able to listen to their teacher for a whole lesson without a break. Five minutes do not pass when they dive into a smartphone. Then, that’s it, they get out of it only when the lecture ends.

What can we do about it? Top Hat, a Canadian #startupoftheday, proposes to take control over the situation. Let the professor broadcast not only from the chair but also from the screen. Next, it turns out that the student is sitting on the phone and acquires knowledge at the same time. Profit! Lectures can be delivered interactively with the Top Hat application. Slides and tests are sent from a professor to students and from students to a professor in anonymous or non-anonymous mode. In general, it looks like many webinar educational projects, only the window itself with the teacher is brought into live presence.

Whether such a scheme gives the desired effect of separating students from Snapchat, no one, of course, can measure. Top Hat, obviously, claims that everything works out great, but even they don’t have the nerve to say exactly how great it is. Well, we can assume that the push notifications coming from the professor really remind us of the occupation more effectively than the raised or lowered voice, but this is only speculation. As I said, there are no numerical estimates, but you can speculate in the other direction. Though instantly passing tests and polls are probably objectively useful.

The startup makes money from colleges. First, just for a subscription. Secondly, through the marketplace of beautifully digitized textbooks which are not just recognized scans of paper manuals but full-fledged courses with tests and homework. There are a lot of such materials in English and every year there are more, but if the university bought this product for classes, then there are more chances for textbooks – one contractor, one application and one style is more convenient for everyone.

It is unlikely that the Top Hat approach will become a standard in education, it is still too easy to jump from it into a completely remote option. Yet, so far the startup is growing, both, in the number of universities covered and the money raised. In their presentations, they talk about two million students – these are, apparently, those who at least once in their life somehow crossed paths with the project. They received forty-two million dollars of investments for their entire life, a little more than half of them, just the other day.

Here’s a #saturday replay from 2017. Top Hat has done well before, but COVID certainly helped them. The product is now officially focused on remote education and advertised as a specific Zoom replacement for education. After a recent round, the startup is valued at half a billion dollars.

The original post from 2017:

Startup: Top Hat

Translation : Valeria Stupnikova

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