What’s fascinating about the story told in Startup.comhow a dot-com became a not-comisn’t its novelty but its familiarity. Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim’s grimly funny documentary charts the progress of two buddies, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, who in May 1999 launched their own new-media company: GovWorks, a Web site that would allow people to pay their parking tickets online. In less than a year, their company would have 200 employees and a paper worth of $50 million. In less than two years, the offices would be empty and one co-founder would find himself escorted from the building, ousted by his former best friend.
Initially, from the filmmakers’ fly-on-the-wall vantage point, the gig looks good. Itching to ride the Internet gravy train, investors hop aboard despite GovWorks’ somewhat amorphous business plan. Herman, an earthy-crunchy single dad more comfortable with computers than CEOs, burbles to prospective backers about tiny cameras trained on town-hall basements all over America. Tuzman, a flashy, jargon-prone swinging-dick who meditates on camera, turns up on CNN and C-SPAN, where he banters with President Bill Clinton at a tech summit.
Notably absent, for the most part, is the product, a near afterthought in the heady buzz of capital-raising and media-flogging. From the start, the movie shows, the company’s function was less important to Tuzman, Herman and their backers than claiming an acre of the tech frontier, no matter how hardscrabble. Panic sets in as GovWorks goes online, facing slow returns, fast competition and constant demands for accelerated technology from a staff already short on time. The once informal office culture starts to constrictand when it does, it tightens around one neck in particular.
Although Noujaim was Tuzman’s Harvard roommate, the filmmakers take care not to favor either of the partners. The higher the stakes get, though, the more inevitably a choice looms between friendship and money. When the movie came out last year, most reviews pegged Tuzman as the villain for forcing the issue. But Herman, for all his idealism, comes across as a passive drip who ducks personal responsibility for the company. It’s a credit to the filmmakers’ fairness that neither founder comes off as strictly a wolf or a sacrificial lamb.
The tech boom was a con man’s paradise: rubes with unlimited wealth throwing money at technology they couldn’t comprehend. However inevitable the tech wreck seems in retrospect, it’s gripping to watch transpire in miniature in Startup.com. Had Hegedus’ election documentary The War Room followed the Clinton team to the White House, the results might have looked the same. Startup.com shows this week at the Belcourt.
The shooting location for hard bodies gym was formerly the Paramus, NJ location of Tower…
This is like a flashback to the '80s, when Ted Turner was colorizing CASABLANCA and…
That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!
LE JOUR SE LEVE is far superior to its American remake, THE LONG NIGHT (1947),…