Review: Detroit-set ‘Generation Startup’ aims high

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Generation Startup” is like a company making an early pitch to investors: it’s idealistic, well-meaning and maybe not entirely ready to come to market.

This look at a handful of young entrepreneurs in Detroit deals with the struggles of starting a business, along with the difficulties of reinventing oneself in a city in the process of reinventing itself. But its focus is fractured and some of its storylines have a low return on investment.

The best narrative concerns Banza, a gluten-free pasta made from chickpea flour started by Brian Rudolph, who came to Detroit as part of the Venture for America Fellows program that encourages entrepreneurship in Detroit. Directors Cheryl Miller Houser and Cynthia Wade follow Banza from its shaky beginnings — early on, the pasta congeals into a paste its makers compare to hummus mixed with oatmeal — to its later successes, and show there are no shortcuts along the way.

Another thread seems to be all shortcuts. The founders of a real estate app called Castle are shown questioning their dedication to their project and nearing a financial dead end — the company’s funding isn’t clear — before scoring a major investment during a pitch in New York. Several key elements of their story are missing.

There are other stories — a New Yorker, Labib, struggles with his job, his faith and his family back home; a young woman helps fund new businesses (but must keep her work confidential, to the film’s detriment) — that have seeds of interest, but feel incomplete.

“Generation Startup” has lofty goals, but its reach is overextended.


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‘Generation Startup’


Not rated: language

Running time: 92 minutes