Bebo founder Michael Birch back at the social network

December 10, 2010

beboMichael Birch, the founder of online social network Bebo, who sold the company to AOL over two years ago for a spectacular sum, is linked up again to Bebo as an investor and advisor.

“I’ve been watching this space with interest and thought it was a good opportunity to get back and get it back on track,” Birch said.

Birch and his wife Xochi launched Bebo in 2005 and watched it become one of the most popular social networking sites among young adults in the U.K. It caught the attention of AOL, then still hitched to Time Warner, which bought Bebo for $850 million in March 2008 in order to gain access to the site’s 40 million users and to expand AOL advertising sales in markets outside the United States.

The deal turned out to be another ill-timed acquisition for AOL as months later the financial crisis hit.  The AOL spin-off from Time Warner only fanned speculation that Bebo was not long for the world under a new AOL management team headed by Chief Executive Tim Armstrong.  Indeed, AOL sold Bebo to Criterion Capital Partners for around $10 million in June.

Ever since, Bebo has lost even more ground to other social networking sites, including Facebook, which continues to dominate the space.

Birch is working with Bebo chief executive Adam Levin, the newly hired chief product Kevin Bachus (who was one of the creators of the Xbox) and chief tech officer Akash Garg, co-founder of Hi-5, another social network site popular throughout Latin America.

Birch said that Bebo isn’t chasing windmills in the hopes of overtaking Facebook. Rather, Bebo wants to carve out a niche and become a place where people go for self-expression and entertainment.  “It’s not that we are trying to get people to stop using Facebook and use Bebo instead,” Birch said.

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