Half the story
Startup.com is a documentary on the rise and fall of govworks.com, one of the scores of startup Internet companies from the late 1990s. Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, high school friends, founded the company based on the idea of paying parking tickets online, and otherwise providing an online interface between government and its constituents.
The story follows the prototypical startup formula - an idea leading to a small "friends & family" investment, and then the hunt for real venture capital. The size of the company grows rapidly (and presumably their burn rate, though they never mention it), and then the need to actually make some money begins to rear its nasty little head.
Startup.com sticks primarily to Kaleil and Tom throughout, showing the strain of their friendship, and what's happening in their personal lives. This sort of decision makes for something the audience can easily relate to, but watching Tom do his daughter's hair leaves less room for other details.
Having been involved in several startups myself, I know there's a lot more going on here. The most technical statement presented the whole time is "our web site isn't good enough". What do the engineers think? I suspect that, as a personal friend of Kaleil and Tom, Jehane Noujaim would have a difficult time getting the real viewpoint of the "little people" doing the work. After the moment when we start seeing signs of trouble, we jump six months ahead in time and find the company has been decimated. Why don't we hear from any of those who were let go? I'll bet there were some strong opinions there, and some interesting tension and drama to draw on.
I started the DVD up once with the commentary enabled, and found myself bored before getting very far in. The filmmakers were talking about how the project came into being rather than what we saw on screen. Perhaps it's difficult to introduce the doc quickly, but I wanted to know about the opening, which appears to be some kind of promotional material from the company. I understand the desire to tell their own story, but they should have given some thought to the needs of the audience at the same time.
Startup.com wants us to think it's a story about a company, but it's really giving us the story of two people, and that's limiting. They should have embraced one or the other more fully. A lot of the moments we witness are great personal drama, but they are uninformed of the bigger picture, and that just undermines the meaning of the moments in full.
Full profile for Startup.com
Offsite info: Internet Movie Database
Review: Nearly Time Capsule Material 6/10 mastadonfarm
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