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

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.