Shiny Heart Venture's Frank Gruber and Jen Consalvo took some time to answer a few questions on the future of Digital Capital Week. The event, produced in partnership with iStrategyLabs, rocked the nations capitol June 11-June 20.
Q: What was the original vision for DCWEEK and what are the origins of its discussion and development?
Frank Gruber (FG): The original vision was very much in line with what I have been doing with TECH cocktail for over 4 years now - connect, educate and amplify the DC technology and innovation community so it only made sense to extend that to the enitre city. The development of Digital Capital Week first originated a few years ago when Peter Corbett and Nick O'Neill and I all got together. We had all separately been thinking about doing a week of events to help spotlight the DC tech community. I had med with Vivek Kundra, then the CTO of DC, and he was looking to work together on a DC Tech Week. Unfortunately, due to our own busy schedules and Vivek moving on to a new role with the Federal governement we shelved the idea until this year. Nick had just sold his company and moved to San Francisco so we pulled in Jen Consalvo, my partner in Shiny Heart Ventures to give it a go.
Q: What was the key moment when you knew DCWEEK was a feasible venture?
Jen Consalvo (JC): I think it fully hit me when I looked at the registration form and saw people had registered before we had promoted it (sneaky sneaky!). We had such an immediate, huge response that it just fueled us for the next few months. Of course, the first few sponsors really helped as well and gave us the confidence and means to keep going.
FG: We knew it was feasible since we all have big expectations for the DC tech community. We were overwhelmed with the initial response when we suddenly had a couple thousand attendees signed up within the first 10 days. We also were excited to see over 100 events on the DCWEEK schedule. These were all good signs of things to come.
Q: What was the most surprising comment / comment source you have had about the event?
FG: We had someone ask us how we got the government contract to put on this festival which caught us by surprise as the festival was not a product of the government. To be totally clear, we did not bid for any government contract for the festival - it was our own creation (with iStrategyLabs). We did however have support from the DC government which was helpful and we are thankful for that.
Also, I had someone email me thanking me for hosting TECH cocktail (an event on 6/17) saying: "TECH cocktail is the Woodstock of the tech industry" which made my day.
JC: Frank mentioned one of them - when a gentleman asked me how we "won the DCWEEK gov't contract". Hilarious! In general, I think I was surprised by how many people thanked us for putting on the event.
Q: Was there anything during the process of development and promotion that really surprised you that other large collaborative event organizers might benefit from knowing ?
FG: There are lots of lessons learned but nothing that stands out to share.
JC: Not sure if others will benefit from it, but it became really clear that the festival had a momentum of it's own. The closer we got to the event, the more people reached out and wanted to get involved. As Frank said, there are tons of other lessons learned as this was our first year!
Q: What does the DC tech scene really gravitate to? Any surprises?
FG: It's no surprise that the Gov and Non-profit 2.0 day was well attended along with the Media 2.0 and Digital Garage.
JC: We had a great turnout at TECH cocktail where the tech scene could check out the latest startups. Also had a great turnout at the Tony Hsieh "Delivering Happiness" talk & book signing. The design sessions were really well received as were the media, gov & nonprofit days. Ignite DC was stellar and the Sweets & Tweets session did great too!
One thing we weren't totally sure about at first was our Pro Bono Consulting Lounge sponsored by Ogilvy - but it ended up packed all day with volunteers helping nonprofits with their projects. We had to ask people to leave when the building was closing for the night - pretty amazing.
Q: What is the future of DCWEEK?
FG: We'd like to do it again but bigger and better next year. ;)
JC: Since DCWEEK is about the community, the first thing we need to do is comb through all the feedback. That will help us craft next year's event. Personally, I'd like to keep it going, making it as solid and strong as possible touching more people and more neighborhoods.Q: Have potential future sponsors and advertisers approached you?
JC: Yes. I think there were some companies who held out this year as they were taking a "wait and see" approach to see how the first year would go and they were pleasantly surprised.FG: We have talked to some potential sponsors but are always looking for more as hosting a week long festival is a costly endeavor.
Q: What are you greatest hopes/goals for the next DCWEEK?
FG: We hope it turns into a festival that is well attended by both the DC area and from folks from all over the country in years to come.
JC: Obviously we hope to have great support from sponsors and the local community, but also from across the country. This is the nation's capital - we have much to offer to the rest of the country so we hope companies, press, startups and individuals from around the US (and beyond!) will take note and consider attending or supporting the festival however they can. We also learned a lot this year - for example, I hope next year we can take the "doing" aspect of the festival even further and make even more of an impact in our own neighborhoods.
Q: Anything you'd like the general public to know about DCWEEK and the digital scene?
FG: We are thankful for the community support and participation in Digital Capital Week. We could not have done it without them.
JC: There is so much knowledge, creativity and talent here across all sectors! This year we were able to see glimpses of what can happen when people are given a platform to share their knowledge, skills or energy and make things happen. But I think a lot of the public didn't think about how they could contribute or take advantage of what others were offering. I hope everyone who did participate can share their stories and encourage others to get involved. This is more than a festival. It's a time to learn, share, get involved, take action - the possibilities are endless.
Q: Anything else? :)
JC: I'd just like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated and showed their support. We couldn't have done this without the help of hundreds!
Thanks Jen and Frank!
We hope you saw our previous #DCWEEK coverage on WashingtonExaminer.com, but if you didn't, check it out!