He then asked me to clarify what I meant by that. What I did mean when I wrote it was, "that's it, I've had enough, I quit". But after a few deep breaths, I brushed it aside by saying that I was done asking about this particular task.
I decided to persevere with the Biz Dev opportunities, hoping that developments on the Customer side of things would help reinvigorate Tim's motivation and desire to get back to building - base don not what I said I wanted, but what customers and users said they wanted.
The pilot for AUB was setup to start with a talk / intro a gave on the 1st October. I requested some invites to be setup in bulk for the students, via Oren's account. This required Tim to flick a switch - nothing more. I got not reply to my request. I went to the meeting without this in place which was embarrassing and hugely frustrating. At this point in time, I knew that was it, I'd lost Tim or Tim had decided to lose me - either way, it really wasn't going to work out.
Eventually, we setup a management meeting - the first in months - where I thought we'd be able to discuss the issues, iron out the problems and get back to aligning our vision and agreeing a way to move forward together - driven by our common goal that joined us in the first instance.
Instead, after some small talk and niceties exchanged by Tim and I, whilst we waited for Tim's wife Sam, also a shareholder (minority) in MSB to arrive, I was coldly and succinctly told that Tim intended to stop our venture together, dissolve the company, take his product (the source code - in it's crudest definition) and basically do whatever he wanted to later on. I, on the other hand, would be left with nothing for my efforts.
Well, not quite nothing.
After quickly deciding that there was nothing more to be said there and then, somewhat taken by surprise by the ambush, upset by the outcome, surprised by the coldness of the situation, I retreated and took a walk around London to think and clear my head.
I knew I'd have to seek legal council, as I was unclear as to my position - something I really should have had contingency for.
I spoke to my Lawyer, who having confirmed as I expected that having never got Tim to assign IP rights to the company for his source code from prior to our incorporation of the company and our dual input, I had little option. I could sue him, or I could suck it up and crack on.
I'm not going to sue anyone. I hold no grudge against Tim, on the contrary I have huge respect for his knowledge, his character (I saw the side of Tim that shows just how considerate and kind a person can be) and in hindsight, it was absolutely the right thing to do. It clearly wasn't working out for either of us and a decision had to be made. That decision was never going to be easy, but it could be dignified. I'm sure I was not faultless in whatever the causes were. But I know that I tried the best I could with the resources that I had. I truly hope that Tim and I can be professional, even friends as we presumably set out to realise our own visions which may or may not cross paths.
A week or so later, I was due to give a talk on the subject of the realities of entrepreneurship, and in particular, the importance of work experience. I nearly didn't go, but a few words of support from my wife I drove the hour to King's School Winchester, to unexpectedly, be met with an entire assembly hall of year 10 students who probably wanted to be anywhere but. To say I meant every word I said and how I said it was an understatement and it was refreshing and invigorating to get the feedback from these young aspiring business people.
I benefited in many, albeit less tangible ways from my time at MySpareBrain and working with a talented software engineer like Tim. 12 months ago, I could never have dreamed about building something so complex, so cutting-edge. My knowledge of the information architecture required to build such a product, for a non-engineer, is not insignificant.
And ultimately, I had to remind myself that being bound to MySpareBrain and being associated with Tim was not the goal* - the goal was to create a product that people love, that changes the way people manage and interact with online information and with each other using technology.
And it remains and always will be the driving force.
*initially, it was part of the goal. As a non-technical (well, non-technical-ish ,depends who you are asking) co-founder in a hi-tech internet startup, everywhere you'll read, from all the usual commentators, investors and commentators-masquerading-as-investors that you need a CTO. You need a great geek. Well, I found one and went into partnership with one. Tim had all the credentials, Tim had built a solid early stage prototype. Tim could talk the talk and walk the walk. But that, in and of itself is not enough (in the UK, anyway). The technical conversation was lost on all the investors we met and never did anyone probe deep enough to understand the deep technical rationale and philosophy behind the product, the evolution of the market and the insights we had. So, it didn't matter - having a CTO is not important, at least not for raising money, unless not having one also precludes you from investment, but I don't think so. It is important for someone to take control of the technical implementation of the product, but not the product itself. The product is defined by the market and the market, or more specifically, the customers - and in turn they define the investment case. You have customers, there are more customers to be had (a lot more), you are growing - you get investment. No customers, get out of the fucking door and come back when you do.
So, with a fresh, clean slate. A new project opened up in my code editor. A new and evolved set of tools and resources. An exciting, talented, technical and creative new team. The relationships and insights from talking with real customers who are just craving the product we know they want, and the knowledge that customers are waiting to pay for it and use it. Fresh designs and no restrictions (well some restrictions, but none that will stand in my way), I set out to build the product and the Global Technology Company that I, my family, friends, colleagues, customers, investors and peers will be proud of.
Because that's how I deal with set backs. That's how I take failure. That's how much I love being kicked in the nuts. I'm back in the game, I'm all in. I'm funding it with whatever I can get my hands on - credit card debt, limited spare cash. But now I'm driving and in control.
We will build something that we love, and I don't think you and I are that dissimilar. Oh, and we will build it very soon (hint: Christmas will be very busy).
Merry Christmas One and All. Here's to an amazing 2013.
Disclaimer: I officially resigned as Director of MySpareBrain Limited on 6th December 2012, following consultation with Tim and agreement of the restrictions (there are none) of my business activities. This is my side of the story from the best of my recollection, and I expect anyone mentioned to have the right and privilege to express theirs accordingly, should anyone care to read it.