Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXIX

Along the lines of Startup.com and the mockumentary Dot, this movie follows the rise and fall of a dotcom company. Tracking the formation, development, and dissolution of Kozmo.com, one of the more widely covered near-success stories of the Net Economy boom, the movie isn't as cliched or pointed as Dot -- and is substantially more interesting than Startup.com because the company covered is a known entity. I only used Kozmo once, to order a newly released Green Day CD while I was in a hotel in Brooklyn. I'd walked around the neighborhood looking for a record store, couldn't find one, and turned to the Web. Truth be told, I felt a little guilty and silly when the front desk called up saying a courier had arrived with a "package" -- the single CD -- for me, and I never used the service again. Given Kozmo's self-description as FedEx for the Internet -- I think it was more like Amazon for local delivery in an hour -- the concept had promise but several challenges, the largest of which was the low minimum orders customers placed. You cannot build a business on a movie rental, free ice cream, and 60-minute delivery. Some of the more telling moments of the document include the early interviews with the bicycle messengers hired by the company, Kozmo's first troubles meeting payroll, one founder's inability to not talk to the press -- highlighted by a close friendship with a former Industry Standard reporter and a PR problem with Doubleclick -- and the founders eventually stepping down. The ending is particularly ironic, as the documentarian accelerates to the company's folding and indicates where the founders have ended up. The two initial founders, believe it or not, went to business school -- at Harvard and MIT Sloan, no less. Perhaps they should have done so before trying to build Kozmo. Regardless, the rise and fall story is good, the documentary solid, and the overall tenor less depressing and desperate than other similar movies I've seen. More than a quaint snapshot of what once was -- but an indication of what might have been and what could be again.

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