Lithium Closes Round D of Funding – First Take

On January 5th, 2012 Lithium Technologies announced it had closed Round D funding to the tune of $53.4 million, adding to the $39 million it had raised in previous rounds.  The proceedings will go towards “completing the suite” and international expansion according to the company.

Among the new funding partners, Lithium signed up NEA as leading partner as well as SAP Ventures.  Existing funding partners all continued their support as investors.

Earlier today I distributed a note to my clients with detailed analysis of this event, here are the main points:

  • The main result of this announcement is to take Lithium off the list of companies that will be acquired soon.  The total amount of funding received (close to $100 million) and the expected returns from investors, company founders, and employees makes it a very expensive company to acquire.
  • Lithium has focused mostly on the “Social Brand” (marketing) aspects of their product in the past year, and we expect the majority of the investment in completing the suite to go to that side as well.  We advocate a cloud-based analytics solution for the top of their shopping list.  Lithium’s strongest market presence is in support communities, and while it remains committed to that sector, we don’t foresee them completing a support suite before a Social Brand suite.
  • We absolutely believe the international expansion is going to bring them a good return on investment for many reasons, but primarily allows them to focus on global brands.

One final point of notice, SAP Ventures as an additional investor in the company brings a very interesting wrinkle to the game.  SAP Ventures is a very conservative firm focused, among other things, in funding potential strategic partners and acquisitions for SAP.  We will see where things go.

We expect no major changes in the short term, acquisitions they will make are bound to introduce changes in the long term – but we cannot predict those.  We foresee an IPO event in the 12-18 months timeframe.

For further questions, please contact me.

Social Renaissance in Sight

Please don’t run for the door – you won’t hear Gregorian chants, ye olde english, or be forced to eat boar legs with your hands.

Not that kind of Renaissance.  Promise.

Remember when we learned about the Renaissance period in school? Me neither — thank heavens for Wikipedia!

The actual Renaissance was the moment the Middles Ages were over and we fully began to embrace the Modern Era.  This was the time when Art ruled the way (we did not have iPads back then, nor were there discussions of cloud-anything other than when talking weather events, and Steve Jobs was called Leonardo Da Vinci) for humanity becoming more adept at dealing with the day-to-day problems and building a better future.  Without the Renaissance period and the people with big ideas in it, we would have never had the industrial revolution, cures for diseases that ravaged humanity — or even toilets and sewers (we probably would’ve, just much later – but works better for the post if you imagine no toilets or sewer lines and ravaging diseases).

If you ever spent any time in  Florence, Italy and look at Il Duomo or the other buildings and sculptures and wonder how in the name of what they were able to build that without tools — the ingenuity of the Renaissance citizens was the how.

As it turns out, today we use the term very loosely and haphazardly to indicate a bridge between two moments in history, a time of transition.

By now you are going — well, nothing I can print here.  Let’s move on and make my point.

I was a guest in the radio show “Coffee Break with Game Changers” on 12/28/2011.  The topic of the show as to make predictions for 2012 – something I hate to do, since most predictions anyone can make for enterprise software are bound to take far more than 12 months to be implemented/adopted/embraced and results visible, but I digress.

I wanted to talk about the many conversations I had with Business Unit Managers, CIOs, CEOs and other managers and executives in the past two-to-three months while helping them prepare for 2012 budgets and priorities.  I wanted to contribute all their plans for learning and embracing the change that social is bringing; how it is not about the tools (although the tools have been useful so far to quickly prove value in social channels); how they are eager to find use cases and situations where social can contribute; how they consider Big Data a distraction more than anything at this point; how, in other words, they are getting focused on the results they are trying to achieve in their organizations by bringing in social.

As I was getting ready to spend 10-12 minutes covering all this I was told I only had 1-2 minutes (including my intro) to say what I wanted to say.  I had to come up with a way to express all that quickly — and that is where the title of this post came to mind: 2012 is the year we see the Social Renaissance in sight.

It is the year when we begin to shift from the obscure process of “going social” to the strategy of embracing social channels for collaboration and co-creation.  It is the year when the Social Customer goes from being the squeaky wheel that gets the grease (who is tended to first on Twitter or Facebook regardless of their position and value to the organization) to having one more data element added to their system of record (good friend Paul Greenberg wrote about this recently as well in his two part series on Engagement as the next level for the Social Customer).

It is, in other words, the year when we begin to figure out how to cure Black Plague, build indoor toilets, and lay down sewer lines in our social initiatives.

We are building Social as an infrastructure, not as a revolution anymore.

Looking forward to it?

How Big is Big Data?

I have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work lately (talking on the phone or in person with lots and lots of people – and also being sick and unable to write or talk, but thinking).  There are many good things that will come out of this past month of misery and agony (OK, not that bad — but gotta keep up the drama queen attitude so my daughters continue to have a role model).

In the middle of all this work, I was able to corral some interesting thoughts, especially as I dive deeper into Analytics and Big Data — I am sure you heard about the agent of doom (if the Mayans were wrong and the world does not end in December of 2012 that is) that is hanging over our heads.  Big Data, now measured in zettabytes and numbers that were never imagined is the looming dark cloud for organizations.  We will never be able to master so much data, less along process it and do something with it.  Definitely not be able to get value out of it.

Well, I am not so sure…

Big Data is nothing new.

We have had tons of data to manage for very long times.  If you really think it through, the problem is not Big Data.  Social, and its cousin UGC (user-generated content), create tons of information every day — nay, every second.  Won’t bore with you with numbers you can find elsewhere (like we generate the equivalent of 25,000,000 library of congress of content every nanosecond or whatever the killer stat de jour is), but the reality is that we are generating lots and lots of noise.  Not all that comes from Twitter is actual data (seriously, have you taken a look outside of what you traditionally cover?) nor all user-generated content is related to you and your situation.

No, we did not grow the amount of data we handle by leaps-and-bounds overnight, but we did grow out abilities to process it faster and more efficiently (partly thanks to in-memory processing, partly thanks to better data manipulation and storage techniques, and partly due to increases in horsepower for computers — think Moore’s law).  The problem for virtually everyone is not how to handle and manage and what to store (well, maybe this is a partial problem – more later), but what constitutes data to us.  Indeed, the greater challenge to organizations is not how to manage Big Data, rather how to separate data from noise and just handle data and discard noise.

You don’t need a new analytics strategy, you need a new filtering strategy .

The title of this post makes reference to many conversations I had with seasoned practitioners lately where we discussed analytics and social data.  The consensus, and these are some of the largest and most active organizations in the world, was that around 10% of their data now comes from Social.

Not what you expected – right?  I mean, as little as a month ago I was giving a speech and (mea culpa) I said that social data will increase the amount of data an organization needs to handle by 20x-100x.

Of course, revising that today (although, to my benefit I did mention that most of that was noise) I’d say that organizations get bombarded by Big Noise, not Big Data — data is what is filtered out of that noise.  The resulting data is not  something you need to fret about how to handle; year-over-year data growth for a business is not that different from ten percent.

Good time to shift strategies from panic, knee-jerking mode to calculated, strategic mode – don’t you think?