Richmond Hill’s Michael Silagadze has revamped the classroom
Trust your own judgment — do the things you believe are right.”
about how to capitalize on the tech-filled environment. Together with his Waterloo roommate, Mohsen Shahini, Silagadze built software that allows students with laptops to view interactive demonstrations of the lessons in class.
“The classroom experience [changed] from something passive and not super engaging to being active and dynamic,” says Silagadze, who, along with Shahini, transformed the idea into a thriving company of about 90 people.
Top Hat is now in over 400 universities across the world, including ones in Canada and the U.S. as well as Africa and Australia. With a Series B round of financing put in place only a couple of months ago, Top Hat now has $10.5 million to grow. Michael Silagadze came up with the idea of Top Hat Monocle (now known as Top Hat – an education software company that just received over $10 million in funding) during his undergraduate studies in engineering at the University of Waterloo. The robotics fanatic, businessman and Richmond Hill Secondary School grad felt that, as a university student, there was something missing from his class lectures. The learning environment wasn’t as productive as it could be.
The increasing number of laptops and smartphones popping up in lecture halls got Silagadze thinking
“We hope to build a really large company that goes on the stock exchange and IPO,” he says. “I guess that’s always the dream.”
During his high school days at Richmond Hill Secondary School, Silagadze was an independent and focused student who graduated two years early — right after Grade 11 — due to his motivation to take on more than the required number of courses.
Silagadze learned how to channel his goals with no concern for what was popular with his peers.
“Trust your own judgment,” he says when asked about the key to success.
“Do the things that you believe are right, rather than the things that other people are focusing on.”
He eventually admits that he enjoyed university the most because of the freedom and the material taught in classes: “You could really challenge yourself,” he says.
And a challenge is clearly what Silagadze is looking for.
He reflects back on his childhood, a time when he engaged in a plethora of part-time jobs — selling and working on websites — to make extra money.
“I pretty much knew [during high school] I was gonna start a company … and even before that,” notes Silagadze.
Being in charge is well-suited to his character, he says. “I always had a hard time with authority and having people tell me what to do, so I decided that I wanted to be doing something on my own.”
With media attention from the likes of Times, Forbes and Tech-Crunch, one can presume that this is only the beginning for Silagadze.
And as the tech industry expands at a rapid pace, it’s the perfect place for him to be.
Michael Silagadze’s company has put a classroom into a smartphone