Klout just announced that it’s hired one of its angel investors, Emil Michael, as chief operating officer.Michael worked for nine years as a top executive at Tellme Networks, an Internet-telephony startup.
He’s going to lead business operations for Klout, which gives users a score based on their participation in social media and thereby helps marketers target potentially influential customers.
Tellme and Klout have something in common: Both were backed by Kleiner Perkins, the once-dominant Silicon Valley venture-capital firm which now jousts with many rivals.
Tellme was cofounded by Mike McCue, the CEO of Flipboard, another Kleiner-backed company. Tellme’s other cofounder: Angus Davis, CEO of payments startup Swipely. Michael is also an investor there. See how these things work?
(This, by the way, is why the Ellen Pao discrimination lawsuit is so dangerous for Kleiner Perkins. Beyond the charges themselves, the uproar over the legal battle puts entrepreneurs in the uncomfortable position of picking sides.)
Michael obviously wasn’t placed by Kleiner; he didn’t need to be. The way these things work is that a savvy venture-capital firm develops an army of executives in its orbit, already known quantities who are ready to go when a portfolio company is at the right stage.
In the ’90s, Kleiner was known for its keiretsu, a Japanese term meaning a network of loosely linked companies interlaced with strong personal and professional ties. Back then it was Netscape, AOL, Intuit, Google, and Amazon. That keiretsu was dealt a body blow by the bursting of the dotcom bubble. But Kleiner persisted and rebuilt. These days, it’s Square, Twitter, Groupon, and Zynga. And maybe Flipboard and Klout.
Is today’s keiretsu as mighty as the ’90s version? Perhaps not, but it’s definitely a factor. And that makes Michael’s hire interesting.