We’ve never met Chamath Palihapitiya in person, but talked with him twice when AOL was introducing features for its Instant Messenger — and he came across as energetic and passionate about the cause (scroll down).

He held the post of General Manager for AIM for just a year, but seemed to move quickly on closing deals, and some have credited him for helping turn around the division.

WSJ has a story today (sub required) about Palihapitiya, 29, quitting AOL to join Silicon Valley venture capital firm Mayfield — a week after AOL introduced its latest version of the product. Some say the defection is a sign of uncertainty at AOL, which is in the middle of negotiations to sell a minority stake to Google or Microsoft. An anonymous tipster this morning told us that Accel Partners had also been interested in hiring Palihapitiya, though we can’t confirm that. (Update: We’ve since heard from a trusted source that Accel was indeed talking with him, so move that to confirmed category.)

As for Mayfield, it is the second hire of a young, well-known tech person this year — an apparent effort to bring in new blood. We mentioned the hiring of Raj Kapoor earlier this year.