I recently had the opportunity to watch the film Startup.com in our Living and Working in a Virtual World class. Startup.com provided a front row seat for the Internet bubble, boom, and finally BUST. In order for this documentary to work the crew needed access to a legitimate company that experienced all phases of the Internet insanity from 1999-2001. This documentary begins with two friends, Kaleiel Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, who decide to quit their jobs and start an Internet company. Tuzman leaves his prestigious position at Goldman Sachs to be the CEO of the new Internet Startup. Herman takes on the technological lead role. They both settle on the name govWorks.com, and their vision to provide a place that the public can take care of their municipality related needs like paying parking tickets etc. Tuzman begins by vetting venture capitalist in pursuit of the necessary capital. Meanwhile, Herman recruits the necessary staff to write the code and design the user interface. GovWorks.com grows to over 200 employees in a very short amount of time but the finished product is still lacking according to Guzman. Guzman and Hermans well publicized and marketed through countless interviews for magazines and television.
GovWorks.com experiences many setbacks, including possible corporate espionage from an unknown intruder. Their office was broken into and several sensitive items were stolen. Guzman and Herman’s personal lives both suffer as a result of the insane amount of time required for a business startup. The biggest disappointment, however, is the lackluster software backbone of the actual services govWorks.com offers. Ultimately Herman leaves the company due to a difference of commitment and vision for the future of govWorks.com. GovWorks.com eventually closes down due to competitors and the Internet bust or .com crash.
I thought this was an excellent documentary that truly did provide a guided tour through those crazy years. I couldn’t help think of the recession of 2008 and the Housing Bubble. There were fewer people predicting the .com bust, but the hyperinflate values of the .com businesses and houses of the years leading up to the real estate bubble were eerie.