(2001) dir. Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim
This film had been recommended to me by a number of people. This is probably because I work in the tech industry, in the heart of the land of the startups, and had worked here during much of the boom period and its downfall — the period and world that is documented in this film.
Years ago, I had seen a previous film by directors Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim, The War Room (1993), in which they recorded the rise to power of Bill Clinton in his 1992 run for president mainly through the actions of James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. It was an interesting film, largely because of the character of the two main focal points and also the fact that they were in the right place at the right time.
Startup.com‘s protagonists are not as dynamic as those from the earlier film, but they are fairly interesting subjects. Of all of the jillions of dot-com stories, these guys seem pretty run-of-the-mill. They do burn through 60 million in venture capital in a matter of a year and a half — and maybe the fact that this was not unusual is really the scary statement. Their idea was less than half-baked, but they got a shot. And like most of the rest, they blew it.
The story really focuses on the friendship of the two “co-CEO’s,” Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman rather than the inner-workings of their company, govworks.com. The two guys come off as having a better deal of humanity than many potential other subjects, and the way that their friendship weathers the rollercoaster ride of their startup speaks to some qualities that they have that other subjects might not have been able to show.
Ironically, it might have been more interesting to see the more outlandish stories of indulgence and greed, rather than the humble decency that Tuzman and Herman ultimately show.
As well, one gets the feeling that this film will seem more meaningful perhaps in a few years, as more time passes, and once the period of the dot-com has a chance to get shifted into perspective. Oddly enough, this film was in the theaters just last year, when the dot-com corpse was still pretty warm.