It’s a given that startup life will often involve putting out fires, but as a founder you least expect one to be started in the board room. That appears to be what’s happened in the case of mobile commerce startup MobiCart. In a tweet earlier today the UK-based company’s founder Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine announced his resignation as CEO and with it his seat on the board.
When contacted for comment, however, Baranoff-Rossine wouldn’t be drawn on the reasons why, except to issue the following statement:
It is with deep regret that I must announce my resignation from MobiCart. It’s been an incredible journey but one I feel I can no longer be part of.
I wanted to personally thank all my customers, partners, suppliers and friends for all your support over the years. It means everything to me and I couldn’t have done this without you.
As for me, I’ll be taking a well overdue holiday before looking at starting my next venture.
However, TechCrunch understands that Baranoff-Rossine’s resignation was the result of an intense and long running board-level dispute over company strategy and the day-to-day operations of MobiCart — a dispute that has finally taken its toll on the company’s founder.
That would also explain the rather odd timing. On the outside at least, and until Baranoff-Rossine’s resignation, MobiCart was doing reasonably well, despite a bump in the road when its original CTO left last year. It claims 14,000 users of its mobile store-front builder for iOS, Android and HTML5, although a much smaller pool of these are paying users.
In addition to providing the storefront builder tools, free or charged as a monthly subscription depending on needs (e.g. number of items in the store), MobiCart has an additional revenue stream by offering to handle the relevant app store submission process, borrowing from the open source playbook.
(Update: New paying customers are complaining that their store-fronts haven’t been activated but they have been charged, and are having their support requests unanswered. Something is clearly up.)
Despite raising almost $1 million from Northstar Ventures-managed Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, and the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels, under Baranoff-Rossine’s stewardship, the startup was being run fairly lean, relying on two full-time staff and a pool of contract developers for its apps.
I also understand that Baranoff-Rossine, who remains a minority shareholder, invested quite a lot of his own money into MobiCart to found the company in 2010, money that he made from selling his previous web design business. So, again, the decision to walk away — if voluntarily — can’t have been an easy one.
Startup life really does take no prisoners, even if that’s a part of the story that isn’t always so readily told.