The last year has been both incredibly challenging and immensely inspiring for Top Hat and the higher education industry we serve. The challenges came, of course, at the hands of a global pandemic that suddenly and dramatically upended the way we live, work, teach, and learn. The inspiration came from seeing firsthand how our people, our customers, and our industry confronted adversity, working together to ensure millions of students could continue their education.
As we begin the Spring term, I want to take a moment to thank all the educators and institutions that have been working under unprecedented circumstances. As the founder and CEO of an edtech company dedicated to the mission of “empowering educators to engage students and unleash their potential,” I have been energized to see our customers find new and innovative ways to keep their students engaged and motivated in the learning process.
I am also incredibly proud of the 500 Top Hatters who have worked tirelessly in support of our customers. When we made the decision last April to rebuild our active learning courseware platform to better support students in remote and hybrid courses — even as our own company was transitioning to remote work — our people immediately immersed themselves in building new features and functionality for the Fall academic term, and then worked hand-in-hand with customers to incorporate these capabilities into their courses.
At the same time, we successfully completed acquisitions of three higher ed publishing companies — bluedoor, Fountainhead Press, and Nelson’s Canadian higher education business — transforming their high-quality print textbooks into interactive, digital course materials and expanding the portfolio of content available on our active learning courseware platform.
At Top Hat, we have big plans to help educators transform the world of higher ed. The pandemic has put a premium on teaching while demonstrating to the current generation of educators the potential of technology to reshape the learning experience. Static one-way lectures and outdated print textbooks and PDFs are not sufficient to engage and motivate today’s learners. We want to work closely with educators to reimagine the learner experience for both online and in-person instruction to one that is engaging, active, and experiential. With today’s announcement that we have raised an additional USD $130 million in Series E funding, we are well-equipped to drive the change we want to see.
And so it is with great excitement that I announce that I have hand-picked a new CEO to take Top Hat forward on our next phase of growth: Joe Rohrlich.
Our mission at Top Hat hasn’t changed since I co-founded the company from my dorm room at the University of Waterloo. Since that time, I’m proud to have led an edtech company that helps thousands of educators deliver a more engaging learning experience to millions of students. It has become clear to me that the most effective way to accelerate our mission is to bring on someone with the relevant experience to propel our growth. Now that we have successfully put into place a strategic and profitable business strategy, rounded out a full and distinguished executive bench, and raised a significant Series E funding round, I felt that the timing was right to bring in a successor with the experience, skills, and track record to take Top Hat forward.
With the full support of Top Hat’s board of directors and executive team, Joe has begun transitioning into the role of CEO and will officially take on this position on March 1, 2021. Joe previously held the position of Chief Revenue Officer at Bazaarvoice, where he led the global Sales, Marketing, and Client Success teams and helped grow the company from a startup to a global business generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. He will be a strong, strategic, and customer-centric CEO for Top Hat as we push forward with an ambitious growth strategy.
In Top Hat, Joe sees a unique opportunity to help transform an industry that does not adequately serve the modern learner, and significant opportunities to improve the quality and accessibility of the higher ed learning experience. Equally important is that Joe is a values-driven leader who places his people first. I have no doubt that employee experiences at Top Hat will continue to surpass expectations.
I will continue to support Joe and provide counsel on big ideas and milestones as a member of our board of directors. I am excited about what’s in store for Top Hat’s future under Joe’s leadership and look forward to continuing to play a part in empowering educators to engage students and unleash their potential.