Lithium Technologies raises $53.4 million from NEA & SAP Ventures

Lithium Technologies has just announced a $53.4 million Series D funding round led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and SAP Ventures, which also includes existing investors Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Emergence Capital, Greenspring Associates, Shasta Ventures and Tenaya Capital. In addition to the funding, Lithium has added NEA Partner Pete Sonsini to its board of directors.
Lithium was originally founded as a social community for gamers, but it took outside investment about five years ago and morphed into a platform for brands to create and manage social customer service offerings. The company provides a SaaS-based product that enables companies to build social forums for their customers to communicate with each other and evangelize their products.
According to Lithium’s new CEO Rob Tarkoff, the company differentiates itself with a platform for brands primarily focused on letting users do the marketing for them. Unlike other social customer service or marketing platforms, Lithium isn’t just about creating and managing Facebook pages and interacting with users, or about social collaboration in the enterprise. Instead, using the Lithium platform users can share comments, videos and create conversations around their favorite brands. Tarkoff calls it “harness[ing] the influence of your customers as opposed to your customer support group.”
Tarkoff joined a little more than three months ago, coming from Adobe, where he served as SVP and GM of the Digital Enterprise Solutions unit. But he’s not alone: The company also recently added SVP of Worldwide Sales Jim Drill (formerly of BMC Software), and SVP of Business Development & Global Alliances Ed Van Siclen (previously at Adobe). And Sonsini joins former Documentum Chairman & CEO Jeff Miller, who also recently joined the Lithium board.
With funding in hand, Lithium plans to aggressively expand its service, through the addition of new employees. With about 200 employees, the company is already cash-flow positive, according to Tarkoff. But he plans to double headcount over the next year. While it has operated primarily in North America and Europe to this point, part of that expansion will come in Asia and other parts of the world. That means more employees in sales and engineering, but it also means more infrastructure for its SaaS-based product.
Lithium customers include AT&T, (s T) Barnes & Noble, (s BKS) Best Buy, (s BBY) Home Depot, (s HD) Sephora and Verizon. (s VZ) With the most recent funding — which Tarkoff expects will be the last it will raise — investors have put $101 million in Lithium to date.