Years ago as a young buck, I sat on the university commons grass and pondered WTF it was all about. I made an immediate decision that I no longer cared what others thought of me. My mind would only be focused on things that were important to me. Secondly, I questioned the strict educational requirements for a degree and determined that I would focus on learning only from the very best professors on campus, and let the degree qualification chips fall where they may.
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The post below caught my attention because of the current industry debate and competitive battle over deployment of much higher Gigabit Internet bandwidth via optical fiber to consumers, known as Fiber to the Home or FTTH, at prices much lower than they currently pay for even 50 Megabit Internet connectivity. Gigabit connectivity is already a reality in Hong Kong and South Korea, with Europe not far behind. The big cable carriers, Comcast and Time Warner, have actually argued publicly that consumers don’t want or need higher bandwidth. How they came to that conclusion is a mystery. Now Google has entered into direct competition with the cable carriers, deploying Gigabit FTTH in Kansas City and Austin, Texas to be followed by other locations, at prices a fraction of Comcast’s pricing for lower bandwidth.
Toronto-based classroom education startup Top Hat Monocle takes a contrarian position on students’ smartphones. Rather than insist that they put them away, which we all know is a losing proposition, the company uses the devices to drive engagement and participation. Today, the company has beefed up its executive team, announcing the addition Ralf Riekers as its new Chief Financial Officer and Malgosia Green as its Chief Product Officer.
Riekers was the first employee at marketing automation startup Eloqua, where he spent 12 years in areas including finance, operations, product deployment, and customer operations. Eloqua was recently acquired by oracle for $871 million four months after its IPO. At Top Hat, he will focus on improving the company’s back-end processes and managing relationships with the venture community.
Green founded India-based education marketing firm Savvica in 2007 to help students worldwide choose schools to match their needs, and before that was the director of product development for Affinity Labs. At Top Hat Monocle, she will take over the product road map and also promises to “aggressively market” the company’s products.
Top Hat Monocle offers allows students to respond in real-time to instructor questions and polls using their Web-enabled mobile devices. They can also use these second screens – assuming the teacher’s black board or projection screen is the first – to engage in interactive discussions, pose their own questions, download notes, and submit work, among other functions. The company’s products are used at over 250 universities worldwide.
Following an $8 million Series A financing in July from Emergence Capital Partners, iNovia Capital, SoftTech VC, Golden Venture Partners, and Version One Ventures, and the company raised a subsequent $1.1 million strategic round in January, bringing its total financing to $10.7 million. The Top Hat Monocle team has since explode from 20 to 80 employees in the last nine months. According to COO Andrew D’Souza, we should expect additional high profile hires in the near future, including specifically a VP engineering, VP sales, and VP marketing.
Ask any investor or experienced entrepreneur and they’re likely to tell you that success is dictated more by the team that is leading a company than by the idea or the market itself. Top Hat Monocle has the benefit of being in a space that is ripe for disruption, at a time when investors and educators are desperately seeking solutions. Today’s announcements should only strengthen the company’s ability to execute on this massive opportunity.
This Bill Gates PowerPoint presentation provides further evidence, if we didn’t already know, that higher education is being […]