There’s no doubt Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the world of social networking services, but back in the day Bebo was giving it and MySpace a run for their money—particularly in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and other international markets. Now, Bebo is looking to make itself relevant again by bringing back founder Michael Birch as a strategic advisor. And part of the role involves Birch actually taking an unspecified ownership stake in the company.
“I’m super excited to be involved with Bebo again,” Birch said in a statement. “There is a huge opportunity to re-invent Bebo, to approach social from a different perspective and create a viable alternative to the now established market leaders.”
Bebo says Birch will bring his “eye for product innovation” to Bebo, working closely with CEO Adam Levin, chief product officer Kevin Bachus, and CTO Atash Garg to refine and redefine the service. Bebo has not announced any specific product plans or features it plans to focus on, or in what areas Birch’s expertise might be applied. Since selling Bebo to AOL, Birch has launched a politically-oriented social networking service in Ireland called Jolitics, and was also involved with the launch of mycharity: water, aimed at bringing clean water to millions of people around the world.
AOL bought Bebo back in 2008 for $850 million in a bid to integrate social networking services into its broader content and service offerings. That didn’t really work out, and earlier this year AOL sold Bebo to Criterion Capital Partners for an undisclosed amount—although it was likely much less than $850 million.