Startup.com

Bomb Rating: 

Let me put it another way: Govworks.com was supposed to make the bureaucracy work better. Obviously, these two idiots never worked for the government.

If you want to understand part of what led to the dotcom implosion, watching this documentary may give you some insight. At the same time, it clearly exposes the limitations of the documentary format.

This is all brought into stark relief when the two main co-founders of Govworks.com, Kaleil Tuzman and Tom Herman, are sitting in a car shortly after Kaleil, the CEO, decides to fire Tom. They both sit there trying to explain things to each other, but no longer speak the same language. Unfortunately for them, they don't recognize this fact. Unfortunately for us, neither do the filmmakers.

Kaleil's involved in the financing side of the business, while Tom runs the day-to-day operations. For Tom, it's about the work and the people. For Kaleil, it's about the money -- "growth" and "revenue" and all those euphemisms bloodthirsty capitalists like to use for "soulless greed." Granted, there's nothing wrong with increasing revenue, but what's wrong with a modest business that makes a small profit? If you were a venture capitalist in the go-go '90s, small profits were for losers. "Go big or go home" was the motto of the day, and many vulture capitalists, along with their dotcom codependents, fell victim to their own ultimatum and did the latter, with their tails between their legs.

Tom has a daughter that the filmmakers seem endlessly fascinated with -- a not-so-subtle symbol of Tom's concern for the human side of things. Each time we need a reminder that Tom is a real "people person" and not a cutthroat businessman, the filmmakers feel compelled to include a shot of the kid.

What the filmmakers don't do, in merely following these guys around, is ever ask what the hell Kaleil and Tom were thinking and how exactly they ever planned to make money. Govworks.com was supposed to facilitate interactions between government and people. Let me put it another way: Govworks.com was supposed to make the bureaucracy work better. Obviously, these two idiots never worked for the government. If you can't walk into a government office and make some obese file clerk look up a record or make a copy of your driver's license, you certainly aren't going to get anybody on their side of things to install software to make their job obsolete. Did anybody even bother thinking of that?

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