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8/23/2011
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Adobe Vet Joins Lithium As CEO

Rob Tarkoff joins the private social network specialist from overseeing collaboration and digital experience products at Adobe.

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Social community management specialist Lithium Technologies has picked Rob Tarkoff from Adobe Systems to take over as CEO, while co-founder Lyle Fong will fall back to a position as chief strategist.

Lithium specializes in operating customer communities on behalf of big brands like Home Depot, Sephora, Best Buy, and Verizon, as well as smaller companies. It claims to have more than 20 million registered users on these private social networks and is recognized as one of the leaders in the market for external community management by both Gartner and Forrester.

"Lithium has done a job very few companies can do, which is take something from zero and establish itself as a leader in new, emerging categories," Tarkoff said. "To get to the next level is no harder and no easier--it's just different."

While this is his first CEO post, Tarkoff said he feels prepared because of his history working for other high-growth organizations. He was one of the early executives at CommerceOne and also held leadership roles at Documentum and EMC. At Adobe, he was responsible for products such as Acrobat and Adobe Connect webconferencing and managed the products Adobe acquired with its 2010 acquisition of Day Software. More recently, oversaw the introduction of the Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform for Customer Experience Management.

Tarkoff said he will start at Lithium after Labor Day and will be working with Fong to set the future direction of the company. "Lyle is a very critical part of the team. I would not have done this if Lyle had not agreed to stay on and help me with the right strategy to get to the next level," he said.

A former professional gamer, Fong established a successful strategy of incorporating game-like elements into the community platform, making participation more fun and rewarding, Tarkoff said. Part of the character of the company is that it provides its customers with a clear prescription for how the platform should be used, rather than making them start with a blank slate, he said.

Lithium is privately financed by $48.25 million in venture capital.

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