“Top Hat is an amazing place filled with smart people driven by the clear mission to improve education.”
Mike Silagadze is the CEO and co-founder of Top Hat. Under Silagadze’s leadership and vision, Top Hat has become the market leader in student engagement software, and is used by millions of students at three-quarters of the top 1,000 colleges and universities in North America.
Silagadze is an active speaker and lecturer in the higher education, technology and startup communities, having lectured at the Rotman Commerce Entrepreneurship Organization, the ASU GSV Summit, MaRS, Tech Fest Toronto, SAAS North and TEDxLaurierUniversity, among many others.
Silagadze holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.
“At Top Hat, we empower teachers to help students learn faster, retain information longer and have fun when learning—what could be better?”
Mohsen Shahini is the chief academic officer and co-founder of Top Hat. He leads the strategy, vision and growth of the Top Hat Marketplace.
Shahini is a recipient of the Best Teaching Award from the University of Waterloo. He has published six academic papers in peer-reviewed journals and has spoken on a panel at SXSWedu on the social impact and financial sustainability of educational startups.
Shahini holds a Ph.D. in Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation Engineering from the University of Waterloo, as well as a B.AS. in Mechanical Engineering—Manufacturing and an M.A. of Science in Manufacturing Engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology—Tehran Polytechnic.
“I’ve worked at other startups. Top Hat is something different—from the market, leadership and team, the potential is even greater.”
Ralf Riekers is the CFO at Top Hat and has been with the company since 2013. He oversees finance, operations and human resources.
Before joining Top Hat, Riekers held VP level positions in finance, operations and client services during his 13 year tenure at Eloqua until its acquisition by Oracle for $950M, six months after its IPO on the NASDAQ.
Riekers is a SaaS industry veteran, and an expert in building and scaling fast-growing SaaS companies. He is also actively engaged in mentoring startups in the Toronto area.
He holds a M.Eng. from the University of British Columbia and graduated from Queen’s University with a B.Sc. in Engineering Physics.
“What’s revolutionary about Top Hat is that our technology finally makes it possible for instructors to engage students one-on-one inside the lecture hall—just like Socrates did.”
Nick Stein is the CMO at Top Hat and is responsible for driving the company’s overall marketing strategy, including brand management, corporate communications, customer acquisition and retention, and marketing planning and execution.
Prior to Top Hat, Stein held marketing leadership roles at customer intelligence software provider Vision Critical, enterprise cloud computing giant Salesforce.com and Rypple, a venture-backed startup acquired by Salesforce in 2012.
Before he joined the startup world, Stein was an award-winning business journalist at Fortune Magazine and CBC Television.
Stein holds a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in English Literature from McGill University. He has taught at Columbia University and New York University.
“I am thrilled to be part of such a mission-driven team that’s so focused on taking a bite out of the cost of education for students while supporting professors’ efforts to create a more engaged and effective classroom experience.”
John Hood is Top Hat’s Chief Revenue Officer, and oversees all revenue-generating functions, including Inside Sales, Enterprise Sales, and Customer Success.
Hood joined Top Hat from Oracle, where he was the Group Vice President in Sales Development & Demand Generation for Oracle Digital, and led a team of more than 800 sales professionals. Prior to that, he was the Chief Revenue Officer at Auction.com, where he steered high-impact sales, sales operations, and support teams. Previously, Hood was Vice President and General Manager at HP, where he was responsible for the Americas SMB market. He began his career with Dell, where he spent 17 years in a variety of sales, operations, and general management roles in the U.S. and internationally.
Hood holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.
“With its strong product portfolio, world-class investors, and strong executive team, Top Hat is uniquely positioned to help solve the challenge of engaging students while providing them with superior learning experiences. And I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”
Eran Ben-Ari is Top Hat’s Chief Product Officer, and oversees all product-related functions, including product management, development, design and analytics.
Ben-Ari joined Top Hat from Kik Interactive, where he was the Chief Product Officer, and led a cross-functional team of more than 50 professionals. Prior to that, he fulfilled product-focused leadership roles in both B2B and B2C companies, including Vice President of Product at Rounds Entertainment (acquired by Kik), Vice President of Growth at Hola (acquired by EMK Capital), and Vice President of Product at Kampyle (acquired by Medallia).
Ben-Ari holds a master’s degree in Anthropology & Sociology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is currently working to complete his Ph.D. in the field of Anthropology of Technology, at the Hebrew University Business School.
“Top Hat is on an amazing journey to transform the higher education experience for students and professors alike. The company’s proven track record of customer satisfaction is a testament to the strong foundation the product and engineering teams have already built.”
Bhavin Shah is Top Hat’s CTO, joining the team in 2019 to help drive product innovation for professors, students and Top Hat employees. Shah leads Top Hat’s engineering team, responsible for the company’s technology stack, software development, security and application performance.
Prior to joining Top Hat, Shah served as CTO at artificial intelligence and machine learning software solutions company Globalive Technology, where he drew on over 15 years of senior engineering and development leadership experience. Before that he spent five years as the first CTO at TouchBistro.
Born in India and raised in Toronto, Shah holds a BASc in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto.
“Education is one of the very last sectors to undergo a total technological transformation. I'm motivated daily to be part of the innovative and disruptive team that is changing the landscape of modern education.”
Jacquie Dwyer is Top Hat’s Vice President of North American Enterprise and APAC. She leads a dynamic team of sales reps who focus on institution-level relationships at North America’s leading universities. Dwyer splits her time between North America and Australia, where she also focuses on building key relationships with educators at colleges and universities across Australia and New Zealand.
Before joining Top Hat, Dwyer spent 6 years at customer intelligence software provider Vision Critical where she was the Regional Vice President of North American Sales. Prior to that she spent 6 years at Hotspex where she held various roles in Operations, New Product Development, and Sales.
Dwyer holds an Hon. BA from the University of Toronto.
“I work with some of the smartest people in technology and education, and it’s exciting to be part of Top Hat’s phenomenal growth.”
Mumin Al-Shawaf is the VP of customer success at Top Hat and has been with the company since 2013. His team manages the ongoing success of Top Hat’s customer base of professors and universities through account management, onboarding and support.
Prior to current role at Top Hat, Al-Shawaf served in finance, operations and sales roles at the company. Before joining Top Hat, he was director of product support at Eloqua.
Top Hat is Al-Shawaf’s third startup, having joined Eloqua and Netsuite in their growth stages. He helped build the customer support departments at both companies, which played an important function during both IPOs. Both companies were acquired by Oracle.
Al-Shawaf holds a Kellogg-Schulich Executive M.B.A. from the Schulich School of Business and a B.A. in Computer Science from Ryerson University.
“Top Hat has an incredible team building an accessible, engaging and effective teaching platform. I’m delighted to be part of the active learning movement.”
Rai Ostrowski is Top Hat’s Vice President of Engineering. He oversees all of Top Hat’s engineering teams, including development, quality, and production operations.
Before joining Top Hat in 2016, Ostrowski spent over a decade working in software development and engineering management roles at digital media management platform Yangaroo and at Softchoice, a leading North American provider of IT solutions and services.
Ostrowski holds a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science (Mathematics and Engineering, Computers and Communications) from Queen’s University.