Lithium Technologies just raised $50 million in its quest for dominance in the social-media marketing space.

The San Francisco-based company competes with Jive Software and Salesforce to bring social networking software to businesses. Lithium boasts about 300 customers; companies use the cloud-based software to converse with clients and gain feedback on products.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the funding came from a syndicate that included a mutual fund company with about $1 trillion in assets and venture firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA). This funding will help the company prepare for an initial public offering.

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Chief executive Rob Tarkoff expects that the company will go public, but he is taking his time. Lithium’s sales team is focused on securing contracts with huge brands (the company currently works with eBay, Telefonica, and AT&T, among others) to ensure that quarterly revenues stay consistent.

Lithium makes its money by selling monthly subscriptions for companies to access its software. The price varies depending on the size of the customer and deployment. Lithium also offers third-party developers building social applications access to its platform and API.

Businessweek also reports today that Lithium has hired former Yahoo executive Tapan Bhat as its senior vice president and chief product officer.

Lithium has raised over $150 million in funding to date, primarily from Silicon Valley-based venture firms like Benchmark Capital and NEA.


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