Projections - Movie Reviews

Startup.com

Startup.com

Startup.com is a hand held documentary that follows the rise and fall of "govWorks.com" and its two founders as they ride the roller coaster of success to failure.

Tom Herman and Kaleil Isaza Turman, friends from high school, work at developing an idea which would allow individuals to pay parking fines, taxes and the like to various government agencies through their PC's while at home.  The idea has merit but only resulted in one solid contract for parking fines in New York City; its reach to foreign countries, where these systems don't exist and might have value, never got off the ground.

Film makers Chris Hegedus' (who made The War Room - a documentary about the first Clinton presidential campaign) and partner Jehane Noujaim's intimate following of Isaza and Herman in business and personal pursuits is interesting but sometimes uneven.  We never have a sense of a straight line even when we know there is a chronological sequence to the unfolding of the film's story.

We see Isaza initially on the road to silicon valley for investment dollars and throughout the documentary in cars and planes flying back and forth from similar meetings.  With some failure to begin with, he is successful in raising sixty million investment dollars before the end comes.

The film allows us to note early on that the fund raising and the product development don't match.  It's a case of reaching with a very broad stroke, going for the millions before honing a product that works perfectly.  A major crisis comes when Tom wants to hold back the start up and Kaleil is under pressure from investors and directors to get it started.  That's a problem which many system folks are forced to face but it has greater implications here.  As tension mounts we hear more four letter words and Dora, a lover, is forced into a holding pattern while Tom's daughter gets less attention.

As the April 2000 market begins to fall, Tom's product is not as good as the competitors and he has to go.  Kaleil must fire his friend.  The dream is fading, and after sixty million dollars govWorks falls.

Startup.com succeeds however in bringing to the screen a story that would make great fiction.  A story of two guys, who have now healed their friendship, learned a great deal at the expense of  investors and now use their experience to guide other Startup.com companies from making similar mistakes.

The confidence and willingness to admit to failures as well as weaknesses, showcase two young men who probably continue to say to themselves "You're gonna hear from me."

 
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Startup.com
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