"Startup.com" is a documentary about the quick rise and even quicker fall of an Internet company. Surely it's easy to believe that an individual working for a Web company would have a biased opinion about a film such as this. But the fact of the matter is it's a boring and pretentious mess that's ultimately much ado about nothing.
The film centers on two longtime friends, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman. The two have known each other since high school and decide to start an Internet company together. The goal of their govworks.com site is to make it easier for people to deal with municipal government.
Initially the focus is on raising funds. The men meet with venture capitalists on the east and west coast during the dot com boom. Plenty of companies were willing to give money. Ultimately millions upon millions of dollars are raised.
With all of the loot, the company gets off to a good start (although it seems to take forever for them to finally launch the site). They hire more than 200 people, appear on major financial programs, receive coverage in magazines and even speak at the White House about the dot com explosion and the economy.
But some things were not meant to be. The good times don't last. Faced with stiff competition, a burglary, backstabbing and management problems, govworks doesn't last long.
"Startup.com" attempts to chronicle both the company itself and the friendship between Kaleil and Tom. It doesn't do either very well. You never get a sense that these guys care that much about each other and a lot of details about the company remain unknown or vague, at best.
It doesn't help that both guys, Kaleil especially, are unlikable. They constantly complain, are arrogant, selfish and treat people -- including each other -- like crap. That makes it next to impossible to care about their fate.
Produced by D.A. Pennebaker, director of the acclaimed Bob Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back," "Startup.com" has an instantly appealing premise. Sadly, the potential remains untapped. You don't learn all that much, it meanders all over the place and it's too long. More focus and tighter editing would have helped immeasurably.
A documentary is only as good as its subject(s). In this case, the bickering and whining between Kaleil and Tom ruin any chance the film may have had. Much like the site itself, "Startup.com" is a failure.
"Startup.com" starts Fri., June 8 at Landmark's Downer Theatre.