Klout’s new COO hire and the state of the tech industry

When it comes to startups, the next six months are “make it or break it time,” one influential tech investor told me on Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His view:  “We’ve been in an upswing with lots of innovation, and now we’ll see companies either make it or go under.”

It’s a sentiment I’ve been hearing a lot recently, and you can see its effects playing out as various buzzed-about startups try to position themselves for the leap to the next level. On Monday, Klout is announcing what it hopes will be a power move: It has hired its first COO, former Tellme executive and White House fellow Emil Michael.

"There’s a class of startups growing into real companies really quickly that need this senior help," Klout founder Joe Fernandez told me. 

Launched four years ago in an office right below Twitter’s, Klout now has 70 employees and new digs to accommodate its growing staff. Its next challenge: Turn its social networking “influence measurement” service from a controversial novelty into a profitable business.

"That’s what Emil brings to the table," Fernandez says of his new hire. -Laurie

Klout’s response to its no good very bad week

Klout, a startup that tries to take all of your “social influence” and boil it down to a score, has been all over the tech headlines this week thanks to a New York Times story on Sunday. We — and NYT — have written about Klout before, explaining what it is and and what it tries to be.

But this week’s NYT story had the kind of headline PR people have nightmares about: “Klout Automatically Created Profiles, Including Minors.” Klout killed its automatic profile creation the minute the brouhaha surfaced, but the whole tangle has lots of people taking a fresh look at Klout and deciding if they want to play ball with it at all. Writer John Scalzi is among those who decided “no thanks,” and we reprinted his essay on why Klout scores are “possibly evil.” 

Klout creator Joe Fernandez jumped into the fray yesterday with a blog post: “The Vision Behind Klout.” 

In his words: “I get why Klout can rub people the wrong way. We are putting scores next to people and that can be initially off-putting. If you met anyone from the Klout team my hope would be for you to see that we are not elitist jerks but just a bunch of data nerds passionate about understanding the impact of every person online.”

Want to have your say about that vision? The blog’s comments thread is open for feedback. -Stacy