Private online community Passenger snags $7.5M, new CEO

Private online community and social networking firm Passenger announced today that it has raised $7.5 million in a funding round led by shareholders Steamboat Ventures, StarVest Parners and Shelter Capital Partners.

The firm also shook up its executive management team today, naming Shelter partner and founding Scopus Technology CTO Bahram Nour-Omid as its new chief executive officer. Nour-Omid will replace former CEO Steve Howe, who will now become chairman of Passenger’s board.

Passenger helps clients such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Fox, Mercedes-Benz and JC Penney to build their own social media tools. The five-year-old company uses the term “ambassadorship” as a catch-all for its mixture of market research, social networking data, analytics and ways to cut costs. It offers these under one single software-as-a-service interface.

The Los Angeles-based company said it will use the funds to support new product development, marketing efforts and sales. It previously received $8 million from StarVest in the spring of 2008, and has thus far raised around $36 million since its founding in 2005.

Passenger has not indicated that it plans to go public in the near future, but the appointment of Nour-Omid is a possible sign the company is looking for an experienced exec to guide it through any potential IPO. Nour-Omid successfully took Scopus public in 2006 and now serves on the boards of global wireless roaming company Roamware, Kryptiq, and wireless monitoring system maker Isensix.

Howe was named CEO in September of 2007, when he joined the firm from EarthLink.

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