Birch returns to help re-invent Bebo, puts his money where his mouth is

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It’s not quite on the level of Steve Jobs returning to Apple, but every time a founder comes home it leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy. This time it’s the turn of Michael Birch who has re-joined Bebo as a strategic advisor, along with investing in the social network which he co-founded with his wife Xochi in early 2005 before selling the company to AOL in 2008 for $850 million.

Since then, of course, Bebo has seen another change of hands: After being left to languish by AOL, who eventually shut it down for tax purposes, the social network was sold to Criterion Capital Partners for about $10m in June of this year.

In his new role as strategic advisor, Birch will provide Bebo with his “expertise and eye for product innovation”, according to the press release. He’ll be working alongside CEO Adam Levin, newly hired chief product officer Kevin Bachus (one of the co-creators of Xbox) and CTO Akash Garg, co-founder of Hi-5. That’s a team with plenty of pedigree in the social web and consumer space.

Commenting on his return to the company, Birch talks up the opportunity to “re-invent Bebo” in a way that approaches social from a “different perspective” to create a “viable alternative to the now established market leaders.”

That’s likely coded language for how to taken on and differentiate Bebo from Facebook, both in the minds of consumers and advertisers alike.

  • Birch Returns To Help Re-Invent Bebo, Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is | JetLib News

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  • Brian S Hall

    Never heard of Bebo, but epic hair.

    • Max Niederhofer

      Hey Mike, I want Disqus on TCEU just so I can like the above comment!

    • bulle shah

      U r not bad urself….NOT

  • Jorge Contreraz

    Why he did not buy Bebo?

  • Al

    If anyone can help Bebo then its Bebos Father “Michael Birch”. AOL please allow TechCrunch full control of this site, thanks.

    • Doug

      Bebo was re-sold by AOL to Criterion for less than $10M, with some sources indicating the deal was around $2.5M.

  • Mark McAndrew

    This could be very significant. Birch isn’t just a smart guy, he’s a good guy too.

    One reason Facebook beat Myspace is because the world hates Rupert FauxNews Murdoch – and FB was seen as the not-so-evil alternative.

    Now FB is showing its true colours as the bastard offspring of Peter ‘If only I had a heart’ Thiel and friends, where can you go?

    Bebo and Birch might just surprise us all.

    • Brian D

      Um, yeah… All them teens just hate Murdoch.

      Your ‘one reason’ is a very small fraction. It comes under the ‘one reason’ of PR.

      • Mark McAndrew

        Show me a teenager who likes extreme right-wing organisations and I’ll show you 1000 who don’t.

        You underestimate how opinionated the next generation really is. So did Murdoch and so does FB.

        Myspace was once considered to be untouchable. Those who don’t learn from history… and you know the rest.

      • Enuf Beeyes

        Please don’t show me 1000 teenagers, ever.

  • Tyler

    Wow, classic AOL move losing their shirt on an investment like that. I do like to see the founder go back and reset the course.

  • Close to the Source

    Why am I the only one who thinks this is the final nail in the coffin?

  • Manoj Ranaweera

    It would be interesting to find out who Bebo is targeted at. If Facebook is for social (and now business) and MySpace is for music, what’s Bebo for? And for which age group?

    Very happy to hear Michael has returned. He is a great guy and entrepreneur!

  • eurooms

    Now really, do we really need ANOTHER social network? Is there something to be RE-invented when we are talking about a social network? Re-invent what, how to take the proper pics on the mirror, with the proper angle.. ? come on..

  • Competition Hunter

    Awesome. Found company. Sell company for vast sum. Company languishes and is resold at a huge loss. Re-invest in old company at current valuation then re-up then resell at higher value.

    • JohannQ

      Well, it definitly shows he cares about his projects… I would do the the same with any company I found that I sell and gets wrecked later on, but I believe had potential.

  • Fabio

    If I were Bebo’s board now I’d steer towards a younger audience, pre teens. The examples of Startdoll, Club Penguin Habbo Hotel, Moshi Monsters, etc. proved that there’s a lucrative market in the kid’s space.
    So dear Bebo, if I were you I’d go down that route and create a social aggregation point for digital native kids.

  • Adrian Scott

    Excellent, looking forward to seeing what the team comes up with!

  • Linda Lovely

    Great news, they will beat facebook

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