Bebo founder Michael Birch launches public beta of new start-up

30 Sep 2010

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It is social networking with a twist … a political twist. Bebo co-founder Michael Birch has returned to the start-up world with a new venture, Jolitics.com. After being in stealth mode for a month, the new venture goes into public beta today.

His latest start-up is a social networking site for political discussion called Jolitics.com and goes live today after rigorous stealth testing of the new venture in Ireland over the past month

According to sources, Birch expects takeup of Jolitics.com to be rapid.

Birch’s original venture, Bebo, attracted a major following in Ireland and the UK. Birch and his wife, Xochi, sold Bebo to AOL in March 2008 for US$850m.

The couple’s combined stake yielded them a profit of US$595m. However, in the past few months, AOL sold Bebo to a private investment firm, Criterion Capital Partners, for an undisclosed sum.

Having checked out Jolitics.com, the site gives users an opportunity to create discussions on political issues and have others vote on that issue. Any member can post a political issue to their profile and the issue will be public and anyone can comment on it.

The issue will also appear in the feed of those who are following you on Jolitics and as well as the feed of those who nominated you either directly or indirectly.

Users can vote either "for" or "against" a motion. New members will have just one vote but over time the number of votes a user has grows according to the number of nominations they receive from others.

As your credibility in the system grows, so too does the power of your voice.

Politics appeal to the mainstream

Speaking to Siliconrepublic, Birch explained: “Politics can be a bit dry at times, so our aim is to make it a little less intimidating and appeal to the mainstream, not just the political extremists.

“A lot of communities online are represented by the extreme political views and not necessarily representative of the majority of people. What we’re trying to do is make it representative of ordinary people – especially in terms of a lot of analogies with social networking sites, like Facebook and LinkedIn.

“Jolitics will be empowering,” he promised.

Asked about what he wants to achieve with Jolitics, Birch said the objective is to get people to speak up and engage on subjects they normally wouldn’t have a voice.

“We’re not thinking this will be the next Facebook by any means, but we do think it is possible to have yourself represented on a political networking site even though you are not politically active.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com