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Artisan Entertainment
Official Site
Director: Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim
Producer: D.A. Pennebaker
Cast: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman

Rating: out of 5

Starup.com documents the life and times of an Internet startup over a two-year period. This movie is unique in that it captures both ends of the dot-com phenomenon, from the inception of the company in late 1998, when the dot-com boom was still peaking, to the eventual demise of the company at the end of 2000 following the market crash. What make this movie special however is that it does not focus so much on the business as on the people involved, in this case the two co-founders Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman.

Friends from high school, both dreamed of cashing in on the Internet boom and played around with many ideas for a business. When they come up with the idea to start an Internet company where people could pay their parking ticket or renew their driverís license online (for a small fee) instead of having to wait in line, they decide to go for it. Tuzman, the suave Wall Street one, leaves his job at Goldman Sachs, and Herman, the earnest geeky one, leaves his job at technical consulting firm Sapient to start their own money-making machine.

At first the two make a good team, balancing each otherís strengths and weaknesses as the company struggles to raise its first round of venture capital and launch the actual site from its offices in New York City. Even when there are disagreements, the pair discuss things openly, confident in their friendship. But eventually the company outgrows them, and the camera unflinchingly captures the moment when business and profit is finally put above friendship.

Those interested in the business aspects of the story will not be disappointed, and may be surprised to see how key events sometimes transpire. For instance, we watch Kaleil polling people in a food court to help decide the name of the company (ďWould you rather invest in a company called govWorks.com or NexTown.com?). We also watch Kaleil and Tom biting their nails when they are given only one hour to decide whether to sign the papers that will get them $17 million in funding but are unable to reach their lawyer to help check the fine print.

Starup.com is so interesting in fact that it leads me to the only problem I had with this documentaryóin the process of getting the movie to a picture-perfect 90-minutes, the filmmakers did not give enough time to Kaleil and Tomís other personal and work relationships. I would rather have not met Kaleilís girlfriend or Tomís rival at work than be left wanting to know more about how they were affected as well.

Overall, Starup.com is a timely and interesting look inside an era that seems to have already become the past.

ó Sandhya Shardanand


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