September 21, 2012
After poking around the iStrategyLabs office and speaking with some of the people who were there when DCWEEK was just a tossed-out, pipedream of an idea, I learned about how this amazing event came to be.
The original idea for DCWEEK was spawned about five years ago by Peter Corbett, Nick O’Neil, and Frank Gruber. They understood that DC, as a city, “sort of needed something like this,” Corbett recounts. So logos were designed, domains were registered, and then…nothing. The circumstances and timing weren’t right, and DCWEEK sat on the shelf until two years ago. It was then, finally, that they had enough resources and manpower to give it a shot.
And they had the city behind them. It happened at a conference called Actionomics put on by the Office of Planning, where Corbett led a session on how to grow the tech sector. In that meeting, he decided it was time to revive the idea and get it done. This conference took place in January 2010, DCWEEK was announced three months later in March, and it launched that June.
Audrey Matthias, one of iStrategyLabs’s first hires, remembers listening to them talk about DCWEEK. “The enthusiasm they had was infectious,” she says. That infectious energy led to an opening party that is unanimously known as one of the most progressive, creative, and fun parties DC has seen in recent years. It saw thousands of attendees and “brought together the geeks and the preps and the professionals, and everyone had a good time,” Corbett describes.
Such a good time, in fact, that the police tried to break it up 12 times, and it was the last party of its kind allowed in the LongView Gallery alley complex. Joe Corbett, COO of iStrategyLabs, recalls, “We were handling the line and it was insanity. I thought there was a point we might actually lose control of the event.” While slightly chaotic, the event was a tremendous success and solidified DCWEEK as an essential new tradition. When asked what he took away from the first DCWEEK, DJ Saul, iStrategyLabs’ CMO, admitted, “I had doubts to see the overall reaction and demand, but DCWEEK proved itself several times over.”
The following year’s DCWEEK saw just as much fun, but with more preparation and better execution. Joe Corbett admits, “The second year we knew what we were unprepared for because we had the chance to learn from 2010, and that let us put out a more efficient, effective product.” The keynotes upped the game, the venues were more impressive, and there were twice as many people to attend the 70+ sessions. The mayor of DC also made an appearance during the keynotes at the Warner Theater.
Most importantly, as Peter Corbett recounts, “It was smooth. It was more glossy and well-produced. It showed me that this team is really special.” The ten-day festival was a true celebration of digital technology and innovation, and squashed any doubts that there might be a sophomore slump.
Now, on the eve of DCWEEK 2012, Matthias is thrilled to see that “the general feel of DCWEEK has grown up.” There is the best lineup of speakers, projects, and events yet. However, the most exciting aspect is seeing the DC community rallying around the event with such fervor. Joe Corbett believes that the community as a whole is “better at DCWEEK. I’m looking forward to the community stepping up and making it the most awesome one yet.”
DCWEEK 2012 is sure to be a historic event that will be exciting to look back on a year from now.
Tech Cocktail is a co-producer of DCWEEK along with iStrategyLabs. Get your tickets here.
Guest author Bryce Rudow is a proud DC native and creative strategist at iStrategyLabs.
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