So, better late than never, I suppose. I'm not sure that my instructor, Andrew Fry, will agree; however late it may be, I am doing my required blog posts anyway.
For those of you late to the party (not that I arrived at the party much before you, apparently!), I am in an Entrepreneurship and Technology class this quarter at the University of Washington Tacoma. We have blog posts assigned to us for various topics along the quarter, and since I am behind, they are going to come rapid-fire here for a bit.
This particular post is a review of the movie "startup.com". If you have not seen it and are too young to have lived through the dot com boom of yesteryear, it is definitely worth a view. The movie documents the story of high school friends Tom and Kaleil as they embark on developing a new website called govWorks.com. Back in the early development days of the internet, the desire to be the first to offer something new and cool that could be done on a webpage was at a feverish pace. Everyone wanted in on the action, and there was big money to be made. And lost. More on that in a minute...
The website that the friends had dreamed up would be to search and pay online for any bill you may have to a government agency... parking tickets, renewing drivers licenses, etc. Now, in 2015, it seems silly to think of this as a big deal- but it was a revolutionary idea in 1999. The movie, released in 2001, chronicles the journey in the rise and fall of this great idea.
To be honest, the movie was frustrating for me to watch. For one, I am old enough to remember life before everything computers and online. So, it was a bit like the adage of "hindsight is 20/20" as I looked through it with my Applied Computing minor glasses on 41 year old eyes. I kept face-palming myself during the movie (both times I watched it) as I thought to myself Damn, no wonder it took forever for the internet to get rolling! Dumb asses.
Secondly, from a business perspective, I felt like they really went after their idea half-assed. That's right, I said it. People who got to sit with Bill Clinton and hang with a bunch of rich people took a great idea (clearly, since it is commonplace today) and botched it. From the beginning, they had a complete lack of clear vision and focus for their company. Kaleil kept wavering on the name until the last second, and still continued to second guess himself even after the choice was final. They went into venture capital meetings unprepared because they were not clear on the vision for their idea in process, just the end result. It is lucky they ever got any investors at all.
Finally, Tom and Kaleil violated the fundamental strength of a successful partnership- each partner doing what they do best and butting out of the other partners doing what THEY do best. Tom had no business being in the meetings for the capital search, and Kaleil needed to stay out of the development process. Tom was really not as emotionally invested in the company as Kaleil, as evidenced by his lackadaisical candor when discussing the impeding failure possibility with Kaleil, and I think he never got as emotionally invested as he could have been because he wasn't focused strictly on what he was good at. If Tom would have been nose-in on the tech side the entire ride, they may not have had as many delays getting up and going, not had the ask.com debacle, and might have beat their competitor to market.
Spoiler alert: In the end, the only person who made any money was the third partner who they bought out early on. He got $4 million, and everyone else got squat when it crashed. Tom didn't see that affected by the loss, which was probably a part of the problem all along. It seems their friendship, although strained, survived the experience.
And they all lived happily ever after, I suppose. Check it out if you get a chance; especially if you are looking to start a business and want some good ideas on what NOT to do.
Next up... 3 business ideas for my Business Plan for the class :)