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Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman have had a dream since they became friends at age fifteen: get rich by developing their own dot com company, in some aspect of computer technology interface. Now in their late twenties, they have now come up with the idea they believe will make their riches, namely as Tom refers to it, "parking tickets": the company will be the on-line revenue collection interface for municipal governments. GovWorks.com came into existence in May 1999 with only an idea. The process of building the business focuses on obtaining venture capital based solely on the idea, with the actual mechanics of the website seemingly almost an afterthought, or at least one left primarily to the hired help. Regardless of the strength of the idea itself in raising this capital, another initial problem they face is what they see as non-commitment by a third partner, Kaleil's friend Chieh Cheung. In early 2000, they do manage to go live with their product to what seems to be a promising... Written by
Startup.com is not a movie about the dot-com boom. It's not a movie about building a business; it's not a movie about technology and new industries.
It's a movie about greed and ego.
The two founders start off with the idea that they want to create a "dot com" -- they bounce around a bunch of goofy ideas like virtual cemetaries and eventually settle on a portal for government-related services. The fact that they wanted to document the startup of this venture from day one is another testimonial to their ego, greed and lack of focus.
I agree with most of the comments others have said about the movie. It's fragmented, and has gaping holes in it relating to explaining what's going on. The viewer ends up really not having a clue as to why the venture failed, which is another testimonial to the principals in that apparently the nature of what went wrong wasn't nearly as important to them as the fact that it did go wrong and their dreams weren't realized. Boo hoo.
After seeing the movie and not having much additional information on the project, I am left with my own thoughts as to some of the blanks that the film left open. Specifically, these guys failed because they were more interested in the fruits of their labor, than the labor itself, which was a means to an end. That's why they failed. The only reason they got as far as they did is they ran into others, greedy employees, greedy financiers who were just like them and had no passion for the job, just the brass ring that was promised at the end.
They might have had "good people" working for them, but I'd bet that there wasn't a single person in the company who actually had innate passion for the application and industry they were in. If you ask any successful businessman what's the secret, the first thing they'll likely tell you is, "Do something you enjoy doing." I'm sure Kalil enjoyed hob-nobbing with rich people, but that wasn't the purpose of his company, though it looks like his subsequent career involves that.
We're left to try to figure out exactly how things went wrong.
The one thing that I'm left with is, the tech end of the project never worked right. I'd bet good money the whole foundation was built on Windows technology and was never very flexible or manageable. And Tom is probably responsible for dropping the ball there, but then again like I said, these guys didn't really care about the business... they just wanted to be successful.
If anything, the movie doesn't really teach us lessons about startups. It is a tale of two misguided, self-absorbed guys who find other self-absorbed people with more money and get a free ride for a little while.
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