Top Hat raises $55M Series D for its higher ed learning platform

Toronto-based Top Hat, a company that makes a number of software tools for teachers in higher education, today announced that it has raised a $55 million Series D funding round co-ed by Georgian Partners and Inovia Capital. All of the company’s previous investors, including Union Square Ventures, Emergence Capital and Leaders Fund, also participated in this round, which also includes debt financing from BMO Technology and Innovation Banking Group.

According to Top Hat, about 2.7 million students are currently enrolled in courses that use its tools and schools that use its services include 750 out of the top 1,000 colleges and universities in North America.

“Higher education is undergoing a sea change brought on by the massive price of a degree, combined with an economy undergoing radical transformation,” said Top Hat founder and CEO Mike Silagadze. “This has created a demand to raise the impact of educational outcomes. With the support and confidence of our investors, customers, and employees, Top Hat will continue building on the exponential growth we’ve achieved to empower professors to work smarter and more effectively so they can improve the educational return on investment for their students.”

The company, which has now raised a total of just under $105 million according to Crunchbase, plans to use the new funding to expand its efforts around digital textbooks and course materials. That’s a process the company started in 2017 when it moved beyond its quiz and feedback system for in-class use to becoming more of a platform that included textbooks and other tools for teachers and students. Today it has exclusive partnerships with textbook publishers Fountainhead Press and Bluedoor Publishing.

As of last year, Top Hat is bundling its products into a single platform to provide teachers with a comprehensive set of tools for managing their classes.

“As university students rebel against ridiculous textbook prices much as music consumers did in the early 2000s, Top Hat has emerged a visionary leader by bringing students and educators together in a collaborative digital teaching and learning experience that improves outcomes while reducing costs,” said Inovia Capital partner Shawn Abbott. “My partnership is proud to be part of the massive societal impact of building an enduring, trusted platform on which our children are being better educated, affordably.”

Azimo, the money transfer service, secures €20M debt finance from the European Investment Bank

Azimo, the money transfer service that is HQ’d in London but has the majority of its staff based in based in Poland, has secured €20 million in debt from the European Investment Bank (EIB), the lending arm of the European Union.

The financing is supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the financial pillar of the EU’s “Investment Plan for Europe.” Azimo says the capital provided by EIB will be used to accelerate the company’s R&D and to “scale up” its proprietary payments platform. This will include further job creation at the fintech’s Kraków offices, where 130 out of 160 total staff are currently located.

Azimo has raised $50 million of equity funding to date — investors include Rakuten, eVentures, Greycroft and Frog Capital — and in August the company said it was profitable. It offers low-cost international payments to 200+ countries and territories around the world and claims 2 million registered customers.

“[We are] planning to use the finance to scale faster in Europe,” Azimo co-founder and executive chairman Michael Kent tells TechCrunch. This will include investing in engineering and product talent, “so we can adapt our product for ever more countries and build ever better instant payment rails”.

In addition, the fintech plans to increase marketing spend and “spread the gospel of Azimo’s faster and cheaper proposition to more customers in the EU,” says Kent.

Meanwhile, Azimo securing a line of credit from the EIB is interesting in the context of Brexit. The company is very typical of European tech scale-ups that have teams split across the U.K. and continental Europe, born in part out of the U.K.’s membership of the EU and freedom of movement, which, as of this week, came to an end.

Kent has already had to re-jig the business by securing an e-money license in the Netherlands in order to continue trading in Europe. And he has views on what the U.K. government needs to do next, specifically with regards to accessing European skilled labour, which he has said is the “lifeblood of fintech.”

“I have a very international team in London too and always will,” Kent tells me. “I want to be able to keep them here and augment that team with top talent. Skilled tech workers are super mobile and they don’t come to London for the weather or the living costs but for the opportunities. The noises coming from government and eventually the policies are super important in framing how that target audience thinks”.

Dixa, a customer engagement platform, picks up $36M Series B

Dixa, the customer engagement platform, has closed a $36 million Series B. Leading the round is Notion Capital, with participation from existing investors Project A Ventures and SEED Capital.

The Copenhagen and now London-based startup says it will use the new capital to accelerate its product development. This will including innovating with regards to the way it handles data, and further integrations with third-party software.

Headcount in its product and engineering teams will also increase, and Dixa says it plans to “double down” on its go-to-market strategy in Europe and the U.S., where the company says it is seeing strong demand. In the last two years, it has grown from 12 to 120 employees across five offices in Copenhagen, London, Berlin, Kyiv, and Lviv.

Noteworthy, the Series B comes less than a year after Dixa raised a $14 million Series A, and the startup claims it didn’t need the cash. A sign of an overheated market and cheap money, perhaps? However, Dixa co-founder and CEO Mads Fosselius says it was all about investor-startup-fit based on Notion Capital’s track record investing in SaaS. The VC firm’s SaaS investments include Tradeshift, Mews, NewVoiceMedia, Paddle, Unbabel and others.

Founded in 2015 by Jacob Vous Petersen and Mads Fosselius, Dixa wants to end bad customer service with the help of technology that claims to be able to facilitate more personalised customer support. Dubbed a “customer friendship” platform, the Dixa cloud-based software works across multiple channels — including phone, chat, e-mail and Facebook Messenger — and employs a smart routing system so the right support requests reach the right people within an organisation.

“The problem for customer-facing support teams today is that tickets shared in boxes and legacy call center solutions limit a brand’s ability to connect to their customers where they want to and add extra administrative burdens that ultimately harms the customer experience,” co-founder and CEO Mads Fosselius told me when the company raised its Series A.

More broadly, the platform competes with Zendesk, Freshdesk and Salesforce Servicecloud. However, Fosselius says that Dixa provides a more “holistic and data-driven customer and agent experience.”

Adds Jos White, General Partner at Notion: “Customer service is one of the largest software categories out there, and yet the market is still operating in transactional silos and not reflecting the world we live in. We think Dixa has what it takes to upend the industry with a platform that works across any channel and brings real-time intelligence to every conversation. We couldn’t be more excited to be investing in the company”.