As some may already know, Google is launching its Fi mobile phone service in the United States, and with aggressive expansion plans, hopefully, into Canada and Europe. Google has partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile in the United States. But the intriguing aspect of this new business is Google’s intent to offload phone service to WiFi wherever possible. This prospect has been looming in the wings for awhile, with the talk of true Metro-scale WiFi using VHF white space, and Google’s innovative experiments with “Loon Balloon,” (see my earlier post), and with low orbiting satellite WiFi coverage. Whether these risky and expensive experiments will materialize is another question. However, the prospect of wider area, stronger signal metro WiFi continues to move forward. Google’s hybrid approach using both mobile service frequencies and WiFi to provide full mobile voice and data service is beginning to sound very interesting.
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.
We are all indebted to Intel’s great scientist, Dov Frohman, for the development of the original “floating gate” […]