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Digg's Matt Van Horn leaving for start-up Path

One of the most prominent faces of the social-news site is leaving for a stealthy start-up that might be Silicon Valley's best-kept secret.

Matt Van Horn in an aggressive moment Facebook

Matt Van Horn, business development director at social-news site Digg, is departing for Path--the ultra-stealthy start-up co-founded by former Facebook executive Dave Morin and Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning. Van Horn's departure comes right after Digg rolled out its much-hyped "Version 4" revamp to the general public.

Van Horn was a hardcore Digg loyalist, something that comes across in a note he sent to colleagues Thursday announcing the job change.

"When I graduated college in 2006, it was a crazy dream to move to the Bay Area and join a tech start-up. So I took it upon myself to stalk Kevin [Rose] and crew repeatedly until they created a position for me," he wrote. "It's now been more than three years since I started here and I have learned so much and am so grateful for the chance that everyone took in bringing me on board. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am excited for what the future has in store for Digg and will continue to support it in any way I can."

"I used to work with Dave [Morin] at Apple and I'm excited to be working with him on this new project," Van Horn's message continued. "We haven't announced what we're doing yet, but it's going to start on the iPhone."

Path remains extremely under-the-radar, with executives tight-lipped, even normally tapped-in industry types clueless about it, and the once-ubiquitous Morin practically in hiding. The most concrete information about it so far has come from actor and Valley mainstay Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted on Wednesday, "So jazzed to get my Path beta app! New toy! New toy!"

Morin informed CNET that Van Horn's new title at Path will be vice president of business development, after initially joking that it would be "vice president of dark ops," which given Path's stealthiness doesn't seem particularly out of the question. His first day will be September 13.

"Matt's focus on building authentic relationships, his creative approach to marketing, and his interest in building quality Internet brands makes us delighted to welcome him to the Path team," Morin said of the new hire.

A stealth start-up will be a change of pace for the ultra-social Van Horn, who has become well-known in New York media circles for throwing an open-bar bash dubbed a "Digg Swigg" whenever he shows up in town. CNET pinged Soraya Darabi, a new exec at start-up Foodspotting (in which Morin is an investor) who used to work with Van Horn while she was a digital marketer at The New York Times, and was met with a response of "Matt Van Horn blows me away." Well, then!

"Matt pinged me daily while I managed social-media marketing for The New York Times with smart, strategic ideas for how our two brands, old and new, could work well together," Darabi extolled via e-mail. "He brought Digg to new grounds with media partnerships and I can't wait to see what he will bring to the Path table."

Van Horn's final "Digg Swigg" in New York was Wednesday night.

Much has been made lately of recent resignations at Digg, particularly that of CEO Jay Adelson, who stepped down in April and was replaced by founder Kevin Rose (who is expected to announce a more permanent CEO very soon). But Van Horn's departure seems a little different. Like Morin, who left Facebook after several years as the company's most prominent developer evangelist, working to get its platform to a point of mainstream ubiquity, Van Horn's departure comes right after finishing up a big project--getting media companies and brands on board for the revamped "new Digg." As a start-up guy, he's the sort who's eager to take on something new from day one, and Digg's been around for long enough that its corporate culture has invariably evolved beyond a hardcore start-up atmosphere.

Van Horn may also be familiar to the Internet's meme-happy hordes as the guy who live-streamed his marriage proposal.