From Mom’s Basement to Palo Alto

This time around we feature three feature-length documentaries from the dot-com era that outline the never-ending, uphill challenge that is a start-up. It’s 1999. You can’t swing an umbrella without hitting a young computer programmer with dollar signs in his eyes. The dot-com boom has set in, Internet companies are sprouting like weeds and the poor shmucks have no idea what’s coming their way. is one such venture, started by childhood friends, the rise and fall of which is documented here. The beginning is as rosy as it gets. The founders snag $50 million in capital, their workforce burgeons to over 200 and they are advertising on prime time TV. Soon, the company’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. They start missing revenue targets, lose ground to competitors and tension escalate as one of partners is forced out of the company. Then they run out of cash and find themselves on the wrong side of a take-over. The documentary doesn’t focus much on the external factors but instead gives viewers a queasy-camera insight into the workings of a young company.

Control + Alt + Compete: This documentary produced by Microsoft, gives us a sneak-peek into the start-up and emerging business scene through the eyes of five amateur entrepreneurs and their teams. We are taken to DEMO, a tech pitch conference, where two start-up CEOs are preparing for a life-changing pitch on a stage that saw the birth of TiVo, Palm and LiveScribe. The story then shifts to San Francisco, where a video-game developers meet is on, and the members of Super Giant Games – a 6-person strong company – are producing their first game from one of their parents’ living room. And then on to Austin for the SXSW Interactive conference where developers, influencers and investors have converged in droves, and the stories of our last two start-ups unveil.

E-Dreams: Joseph Park and Yong Kang are two 20-something Korean-American investment bankers. Their dream is an online convenience store that uses messenger boys on bikes to deliver anything from ice creams and videotapes to potato wedges and chewing gum to lazy urbanites, free of charge and within one hour. Amazon and Starbucks back them up. Soon they are 4000 strong, are operational in 11 American cities and have raised over $280 million in venture capital funding. And then the bubble bursts. We are spared the personal angle, but from broad rooms to conference calls and peps talks, the documentary is a through post-mortem of, a dot-com dream come true; for a while at least.

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