What's Next For Bebo's Founders: Back To Birthday Alarm

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I had a chance to speak with Bebo co-founder Michael Birch last weekend at the Founders Brunch event at Loic Le Meur’s house in San Francisco.

It was the first chance I’ve had to congratulate him in person for the $850 million sale of Bebo to AOL earlier this year. Most of our conversation was around the future, and what the Bebo founders will do next.

Birch was recently interviewed by the Telegraph and spoke about the history of Bebo. He was vague on his plans for the future, though, saying “I have thought about what I will do and the conclusion I have come to is that I will get bored quite quickly with day time television. I need to do something that continues to be challenging and interesting. I don’t have any great ambition to go out and make money. But I am still fascinated in starting up businesses and starting it in a way and running in a way that I want to do it.”

But Birch was more specific when we spoke, saying he’s planning on spending time growing Birthday Alarm, a site he founded with his wife Xochi Birch and brother Paul Birch in 2001.

Birthday Alarm is a relatively simply service – users create an account and are then prompted to send an email to all their friends asking them to simply tell the service their birthday. Birthday Alarm then notifies users by email or SMS when a friend’s birthday is coming up.

Lots of people who get those emails end up signing up for the service, too, which has allowed it to spread so virally (Birch says the service had 100 million users at one point). And the business model is pretty straightforward – offer users the ability to send birthday ecards for $14/year.

When the Birch’s started focusing on Bebo, attention to Birthday Alarm naturally waned. The service has since dropped to 50 million active users. But the number of paying users, around 300,000, has remained flat over the years. Those users bring in around $4 million/year in fees, plus additional revenue for advertising.

Birch thinks they can regrow the already profitable service by refining the product and focusing on marketing. This, at least, will keep them busy during the non-compete period they agreed to in the Bebo sale. During that time, he can’t set up any new social media-related business.

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