[box cover]

Startup.com

The dot-com implosion of April 2000 and beyond crippled more than the American stock market. As depicted in the appealing-yet-spotty documentary Startup.com, the Internet economy's collapse also took its toll on the energetic, idealistic friendships that got the whole confounded thing rolling. Debutante filmmaker Jehane Noujaim teamed with documentary veterans Chris Hegedus (co-director) and D.A. Pennebaker (producer and American cinema verité icon), to track the inception, execution, and ugly disintegration of a pretty good idea hatched about ten years too early. Govworks.com was the brainchild of young investment banker (and Noujaim's college roommate) Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, who thought it would be cool if he could pay his parking tickets on-line. Under the stewardship of Tuzman and childhood friend/programmer Tom Herrman, it didn't take long before the company — intended as a friendly user-interface for local governments — was swimming into manna-like venture capital, thanks mostly to Tuzman's virtuoso salesmanship. Before you know it, Govworks has 200 workers buzzing around its New York City office, and before you're done knowing that, it's all gone, it's founders left with nothing — a story too familiar to anyone with a casual eye on the recent economics of technology. Rather than dwell on a business-savvy analysis of revenue models and overinflated IPOs, Noujaim and Hegedus focus on the personal relationships involved: How do friends stay friends and keep their investors happy at the same time? Not so easily — especially when they have lawyers. The great attraction of Startup.com is Tuzman, a star salesman who jumps in over his head and stays afloat with incredible ease. Beyond Tuzman's mercurial presence, it's hard not to question whether there was a better story to be mined from this economic phenomenon. Large pieces seem to be missing from the saga, and the company's structural and financial details are always fuzzy. In this age of reality TV, the glimpses of true drama offered by Startup.com almost make you pine for a 12-week series giving the material room to breathe. Shot with mini-DV cameras, Startup.com is presented in its natural full-frame state with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Also on board Artisan's DVD is a commentary by Noujaim and Hegedus, but sadly no supplemental information about the fate of the film's subjects. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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