- An Informative Hidden History of Venture Capitalism 3/15/2011 12:00:00 AM by JustCuriosity
Something Ventured had its World Premiere somewhat appropriately at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. It is a well-made informative history of how venture capitalists have played a crucial behind the scenes role in shaping our technology-driven culture. The film would work as parallel to films that described the history of the technology from the viewpoint of the geeks – particularly Robert Cringley's History of the Nerds (1996) and Nerds 2.0 (1998).
Something Ventured is essentially an oral history of the now elderly men who funded and developed companies like Intel, Genentech, Apple, Atari, and Cisco which have shaped so much of our modern world. The film is well-edited and the story is told in an entertaining and informative manner that serves to relate a positive view of the best of what American capitalism can do (as contrasted with a film like Inside Job which shows American capitalism at its worst and most exploitative). It shows how entrepreneurs with great ideas teamed with investors with money have transformed the world in a variety of amazing ways.
As essentially an oral history, the film is really told from the perspective of the venture capitalists themselves. This is a valuable narrative, but what is missing from the film is a dissenting voice that critiques and analyzes their actions and shows the negative impact of their products, ideas, and process. Something Ventured aims to tell a single narrative of the history rather than attempting for some form of objective analysis. The filmmakers seem to have gotten too close to their subjects who as was stated in the Q&A session they view as "heroes." There is never a sense of self-reflection or evaluation of how their efforts have affected the broader society - both positively and negatively. There is no questioning of the environmental or social effects of their achievements. It would have been useful to allow this critical voice to enter their project. In a democracy, allowing dissent strengthens rather than weakens a project. While they have produced a very valuable film, they have also missed an opportunity to view it through a self-critical lens.