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
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?
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.
|Directed by: Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim.|
Produced by: D.A. Pennebaker.
Featuring: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman.
Related links: Official site
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.
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|
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Reader comments on Startup.com:
kaleil from kevin, Sep 22, 2001
Aha! from Allan T. Rasmussen, Dec 16, 2001
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