Startup.com traces the paths of two freewheeling entrepreneurs and their quest for the new American dream: developing a successful Internet start-up company. Directors Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim track the roller-coaster ride of the creation of GovWork.com, a new-media solution for connecting citizens with government via the Internet. This exceptional filmmaking team pinpoints a critical time in our history by focusing on the trials and tribulations of Tom Herman and Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, GovWork's charismatic founders and leaders.
The camera captures each important milestone on the road to riches, from the inception of the idea to the courting of venture capitalists. The relentless drive in this group is palpable from their sports-rally chants to their obsessive work ethic. Startup.com follows them from East Coast to West and a few spots between, through sleepless nights and disappointing setbacks. We even eavesdrop at the deal-making table when they discover they cannot get their lawyer on the phone. The wild ride will all pay off if it delivers them to the ultimate final round, an IPO.
Startup.com is also about friendship and dreams. The bond of high-school friendship is put to the test when big money comes into the equation. The choices and sacrifices involved are heightened by their now-infamous historical context, the peak Web euphoria which occurred some two years ago. Startup.com has all of the suspense and intriguing characters of a great fiction film.
Although her first film explored the emergence of startup culture before it engulfed Silicon Valley, Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim is better known for her investigations into Middle Eastern struggles for democracy and freedom. From the newsrooms of Al Jazeera in the first days of the Iraq War ( Control Room) to the crowded Tahrir Square during the fall of Hosni Mubarek’s regime ( The Square), Noujaim offers us access to singular events as they unfold in real time. Oscar-nominated, The Square went through multiple iterations, as the rise of President Morsi brought more strife than resolution. Dedicated to citizen journalism and amplifying Arab voices, Noujaim is a strong voice of resistance in today’s times. She is currently working on a documentary about the 2014 hack into Sony Pictures.
“Even though The Square depicts widely covered recent events, it still feels like a revelation. This is partly because of the immediacy of Ms. Noujaim’s approach, which often puts the viewer in the midst of chaos as it unfolds. You may know what is coming — the clearing of Tahrir by the army after Mr. Mubarak’s departure; the tensions before Mr. Morsi’s election and the violence against the Coptic Christian minority afterward; the anti-Morsi demonstrations leading up to his ouster this past summer — but you witness it all in a state of suspense and agitation.”
—A.O. Scott, The New York Times, 2013