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  •  REVIEW: STARTUP.COM

    Startup.com

    Get rich click schemes

    Greed, betrayal, hope and disappointment are the stars of the dramatic documentary "Startup.com" along with two guys trying to cash in on the Internet craze in New York.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    Should we pity the poor, heartbroken, Internet whiz kids of the documentary "Startup.com"? Oh, let's not. Instead, let's take advantage of this chance to peer into these paper millionaires' lives and think about what kind of human beings they are and where they went wrong. Try not to be smug, okay?

      
    STARTUP.COM
    Directed by: Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim.
    Produced by: D.A. Pennebaker.
    Featuring: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman.

    Related links: Official site
    The thing that always strikes me about the annual crop of twentysomethings who flock to New York on the trail of that big score is how little they seem to know or care about the specific business they're getting into. The past few years were no different just because part of it was happening in the temporarily sizzling Internet industry instead of just Wall Street.

    In fact, when Govworks.com co-founder Tom Herman introduces his partner, CEO Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, at a large gathering, he recalls: "After a year of tossing around things like virtual tombstones and wedding registries, Kaleil said, 'How about parking tickets?' And I said, 'Wow, Kaleil, that is the best idea I've heard!' "

    So Tuzman quit his job at Goldman Sachs and the two of them went to work starting Govworks, a web site to help you pay your parking tickets online. To be fair, the idea was bigger than that — it was to provide an all-around link between citizens and their local governments. But really, these guys didn't start this business to improve America's parking-fine collection process. They did it because Wall Street was handing out zillion-dollar bills to anyone with a whatever.com and they lusted after some of that cash.

    Startup.com  
    In fact, these guys did get an $18 million boost from venture capitalists — before they even had a product — and were confident of seeing an even bigger payday until the Internet stocks crashed in spring 2000. And what's most striking about "Startup.com" is how much of its subjects' time is spent on raising or arguing about money (almost all) compared to how much is spent on important things like actually making a web site and finding customers (almost none). This could just be the film editors' choice of emphasis, but maybe not — one of the funniest moments is when, after suddenly deciding it would be good to have an actual working site, they discover at the last moment that it gives idiotically wrong answers to users' questions. And at the end of the film, we learn that of all the cities in America, this company had signed up a mere 45 as customers.

    Part of the documentary's appeal is spotting all the many ways in which things went wrong for this hopeful little enterprise — including some that weren't these characters' fault at all. Why, for example, were investors pouring so many millions of dollars at once into a venture that would take years, decades, to gain customer acceptance? (Are you paying your parking tickets online yet? I don't know anyone who is.)

    "Startup.com" (produced by D.A. Pennebaker, who made the 1960s Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back" and the Clinton pic "The War Room") gives us plenty of insight into just what happened in the Internet boom and bust. But the film turns out to be not only a case study — it's a full-fledged human drama of love, hate, greed, frailty, adventure and betrayal. Besides which, it's going to be an awfully familiar story to those New Yorkers who rode the dot-com roller coaster of the last few years, judging by the hushed comments and gasps of recognition among the audience members around me.

    JUNE 17, 2001
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Startup.com:

  • kaleil   from kevin, Sep 22, 2001
  • Re: kaleil   from Murph, Nov 22, 2001
  • The Buyout Guy Kai   from joe, Sep 5, 2002
  • Re: The Buyout Guy Kai   from Leon, Jan 23, 2003
  • Aha!   from Allan T. Rasmussen, Dec 16, 2001
  • Great Movie!   from Andrew Todd, Mar 15, 2002
  • Re: Great Movie!   from Verisimilitude, Apr 4, 2002
  • I saw the movie...   from Jon Thiele, Nov 26, 2002
  • Re: I saw the movie...   from John Shiarella, Jan 15, 2003
  • Re: I saw the movie...   from , Dec 7, 2005
  • WHAT A DISASTER THESE TWO GUYS ARE!   from Just a girl, Feb 1, 2003
  • I love these 2!!   from Cyndi, Feb 5, 2003
  • Re: WHAT A DISASTER THESE TWO GUYS ARE!   from CP Kazor, Apr 19, 2003
  • What a great experience   from Lyndal, Feb 26, 2003
  • very funny   from Wall Street Options, Jul 31, 2004
  • Where are these guys now, in 2004?   from catherine, Nov 25, 2004
  • Re: Where are these guys now, in 2004?   from putrats.com, Sep 19, 2005
  • [no subject]   from A H, Jun 30, 2005
  • They should have been arrested and jailed!!   from Jenelle, Dec 26, 2005

  • Post a comment on "Startup.com"