Top Hat Monocle takes $1.1M in follow-on funding to boost in-class student engagement

Top Hat Monocle is filling up its coffers just a little bit more. Back in July, the Toronto-based education technology company announced that it had raised an $8 million Series A round for its web-based platform that turns students’ cell phones and laptops into classroom learning tools. The company said Friday that it had raised $1.1 million in a follow-on investment from Palo Alto-based Felicis Ventures.
The startup didn’t need the funding, said COO Andrew D’Souza, but given Felicis’ familiarity with education (it has also invested in startups Inkling and Piazza), they wanted to work with them.
“They know the space really well and mobile is a big focus for them as well,” he said. “We heard their vision for what higher education will look and we share a similar vision.”
As opposed to “clickers” that give professors just a basic way to gauge their students’ engagement, Top Hat lets teachers use the smartphones, laptops and tablets students already bring to class as complementary teaching tools. With the software, teachers can create in-class contests and competitions, as well as provide demonstrations and experiments. As students increasingly rely on mobile technology and web-enabled devices out of the classroom, Top Hat shows one way educators can put it to good use in the classroom.
In the past six months, its grown its team from 20 people to 70 and nearly doubled the number of colleges and universities using its platform to 285. About 90 percent of the colleges using its technology are in North America, with the majority based in the U.S.