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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
Cinéma-vérité is difficult. Telling a story by capturing reactions requires extensive filming, tight editing, and a clear sense of the documentary's purpose.
Unfortunately, I found the sense of purpose lacking in startup.com. I understand that you often don't know where you're going when you start, but still, if the documentary is to work, the viewer must be able to follow the events and relate through them to the subjects.
The beginning, rise, and eventual fall of govWorks happened. But I have no idea which events were key in any of these phases. Perhaps the story was too complex to tell without stepping outside the cinéma-vérité format for some explanation of events. Still, that is the director's and editor's responsibility, not mine as a viewer.
Startup.com is a good movie if you want to see two old friends talk and argue with one another about the company they're trying to build. But if you're trying to learn the facts behind the rise and fall, you'll wonder where the "meat" of the story is.
Startup.com is worth watching when it comes on cable. However, I think you'd be better off spending the price of the DVD on any number of books at your local bookseller.
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