Once upon a time, people could make millions on the Internet with a good idea, venture capital, and a web site. Sadly, that bubble burst at the end of 2000 shattering the accounts and dreams of many a tech-head. Startup.com tracks the rise and fall of one of these companies, govWorks.com, a site that wanted to let citizens and local government take cares of things like parking tickets and taxes through a web site. It was the brainchild of Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, two childhood friends. The ups and downs of their company also track the path of their friendship, which is the real heart of Startup.com. This is a documentary in the sense that it follows actual events. However, directors Chris Hegedus (The War Room, Moon Over Broadway) and Jehane Noujaim make no real assertions to objectivity. They want the audience to see everything from Tuzman and Herman's point of view. Noujaim was also Tuzman's roommate at Harvard, which was how she found the idea for the movie.
Tuzman's personality is the main factor that brings in money. He is the consummate salesman. Tuzman is personable and able to put a positive spin on any situation. He is also slick and smart, with a savvy business sense. Herman is dissimilar. He is more introverted, preferring to do his work rather than sit and ask for money. When he is in those meetings, he does not necessarily say the best things. The one element that Startup.com fails to document is the relationship between Herman and his daughter. Working for a start-up entails an inhuman amount of hours, and Herman clearly wants to spend time with his daughter. Although this is not the deciding factor in Herman's eventual parting with the company, it certainly played some factor.
govWorks.com is a good example of many of the failed Internet start-ups; they have a good idea but fail to deliver on a workable product. Paradoxically, the more money they lose the more successful they are. Hegedus and Noujaim track the near-meteoric rise of govWorks, using the months and employee counts as subtitles. The movie starts with Tuzman leaving his job as an investor at Goldman Sachs. As the company gets larger, the money flows in and flows out just as fast. Competitors appear, and the strain between Tuzman and Herman ratchets up. They allow cameras to film what is probably the lowest point in their long friendship. When the market tanked, the effect on govWorks was disastrous. Startup.com effectively places a very personal touch on these recent events. Watching Tuzman and Herman's stake in their business and friendship crumble is gut wrenching.
|Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.|
|1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated R for language.|
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