If you’re a fan of social networking, then there was good news last week – Bebo is back.
To be completely accurate, Bebo never actually went away but, such was the low priority granted to the network by former owners AOL, that you’d be forgiven for thinking it had vanished from the ether.
Former owner and founder of Bebo, Michael Birch, re-purchased his brain child for the princely sum of $10 million dollars from AOL, having previously sold it to the American giant for $850 million in 2008.
In spite of being at one time the third largest social networking site behind Facebook and My Space, chronic underinvestment and a lack of site development resulted in the networking falling further behind its competitors as more and more customers de=activated their accounts.
Things are now set to change as Birch and co-investors venture funding firm, Criterion Capital Partners look to re-establish Bebo as a household name and a social network of choice. Criterion’s CEO Adam Levin is confident about the future development of the company and is looking forward to working with Birch: “Michael was a pioneer in this space and his vision and understanding of the environment and landscape is crucial,” said Mr Levin. “It was his baby at one point and he cares a lot about it.”
But how do you set about re-establishing a brand name in a market where the major player Facebook stands head and shoulders above all other competition? The answer, according to Birch, is not to try and take on Facebook head on, but to offer an alternative – a wholly different experience.
“Facebook doesn’t own the social networking space,” he said. “They dominate the thing and they are good at what they do and have managed to become a very big business. They can’t own everything and they can’t be all things to all people and the opportunity is there for us. We are trying to fulfil a different set of needs. The primary need is a slightly more light hearted and fun experience than Facebook can provide.”
Evidence that the new owners have hit the ground running is already plain to see. In the last few weeks alone, Bebo has introduced several new services including a video chat tool and a games section that uses virtual cash.