Lithium Banks $53.4M to Boost Social CRM

Lithium Technologies gets a $53.4 million cash infusion from New Enterprise Associates, SAP Ventures and existing investors. The money will help the startup boost its social CRM services for large businesses.

Lithium Technologies, which makes social software for businesses, Jan. 5 said it landed a $53.4 million round of financing led by New Enterprise Associates and including SAP Ventures and other investors.

NEA partner Pete Sonsini has joined the board of directors for Lithium, which will use aid the new funding to pad its sales and marketing teams worldwide, and support new products and services.

As a core startup in the burgeoning market for social customer relationship management (CRM) software, Lithium helps companies such as AT&T (NYSE:T), McDonald's, Best Buy, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and PayPal set up networks for monitoring, hosting, and managing social conversations, including sharing comments, videos and other content.

The company also makes LevelUp, an application suite that helps businesses integrate Facebook into their online customer support systems. Lithium supports these services with social media monitoring, which helps companies learn what users and rivals are saying about them on networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

"Every brand recognizes that social engagement with customers across the Web is critical for business success and competitive advantage," said Sonsini in a statement. "Lithium has established itself as the clear market leader in turning this vision into reality through its unmatched technology, global customer base, and strong leadership."

Lithium President and CEO Rob Tarkoff said in a statement he expects the funding could help Lithium double its size and market clout in a year when social CRM is expected to blossom.Gartner said that social CRM spending will top $1 billion in 2012.

Several acquisitions in 2011 have laid the foundation for this new growth. (NYSE:CRM) acquired social media monitor Radian6 and relaunched it as SuccessForce late last year. Oracle acquired social CRM provider RightNow.

Then SAP dipped its ladle in the social well by bidding to buy social human resource management (HRM) software maker SuccessFactors. responded by acquiring social HRM software provider Rypple.

NEA is no stranger to backing social software providers, having invested in the likes of social human resource management (HRM) specialist Workday and local deal concern Groupon.

Lithium's latest funding round also includes additional investments from existing Lithium investors. These comprise Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Emergence Capital, Greenspring Associates, Shasta Ventures and Tenaya Capital.