What happens when you bring tens of thousands of people together in Washington, D.C. to fuse creativity, technology, art, entrepreneurship, and innovation?
DCWEEK (Digital Capital Week) was a weeklong festival — produced by iStrategyLabs and Tech Cocktail with support from hundreds of other organizations & people — which focused on bringing together designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and social innovators of all kinds from every sector. In short, it was a movement to boost the creative economy, bring innovative minds together and shine a spotlight on our nation’s capital in a new way.
DCWEEK was structured as a series of distributed events—powered by the community—and anchored by a core conference, huge parties, and a variety of unique projects. From the first opening party in 2010 to the final closing party 3 years later, DCWEEK connected and united thousands from D.C. and around the world. Although many compared it to an early-SXSW (and we were always hesitant to agree), one of our primary drivers was certainly to create a “moment” for people and organizations to convene and to create things together.
That said, DCWEEK was so much more than panels, workshops, and parties. We helped connect small businesses and nonprofits with strategists, designers, and developers who helped them upgrade their digital presences. We helped early-stage startups raise seed capital. We showcased artists, and got local talent up on stage at a sold-out 9:30 Club. We brought .com, .org, .gov and .edu together on a series of special projects with a mission: making D.C. a better place to live and work.
We also didn’t sleep very much.
Before DCWEEK, there were certainly events, meetups, and happy hours, but most were industry or community specific. Early on at iStrategyLabs, one of our first big events focused on bringing together the technology and art communities for a Halloween throwdown. It generated the type of creative friction that comes from mashing up talented folks from different worlds.
Today, #DCtech has become a dynamic ecosystem of diverse talent, measured by so much more than venture-capital dollars raised. We have one of the biggest tech meetups in the world, a healthy flow of talent from local universities, more global brand headquarters than many realize—and of course, the Fortune 1, the Federal Government. While it’s not all puppies and rainbows (and speaking of VC cash, Q1 2014 wasn’t as strong as many had hoped), D.C. also offers unique value in the international connections, networks, people, companies, ideas, and venues via the Embassies right in our backyard, built into the fabric of the city itself.
That’s what’s so exciting about the Challenge Festival — it has the power to highlight the burgeoning creative economy on a global scale. We always knew that the next iteration of DCWEEK would have an international focus, and the timing couldn’t be better for Challenge Festival to be exactly that. With a heavy overlap in mission and purpose, Challenge Festival the ideal torchbearer for what DCWEEK started, and will truly become a new “moment” for D.C. to shine. See you out there!