Something’s Really Happening Here: DC Week

photo courtesy of BenDROZphotography

What if you could look on one screen at all of the public transportation options in DC at the same time and choose the best route home (Metro, bus, Capital Bikeshare, Zipcar, and car2go)? Have you ever tried to cook from a recipe on your iPad or smartphone without getting food on the screen? A voice controlled cooking app called sous chef and an all in one DC transit app called go are just two of the ideas generated this week alone at DC Week.

This week, DC’s business and tech savvy creative class is showing its colors at DC Week, a festival slash conference happening all over the city, aimed at bringing together social innovators of all kinds. I think something is really going on here.

While plenty of people cite the parties (especially the closing party, which is going to be SICK, I hear) as one of the most exciting things about the week, it’s really about social innovation. “We really view it as our job to catalyze as much creation as possible.” said event co-producer Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategy Labs reflecting on the 2011 event. There are just over 100 very diverse events throughout the week, reflecting the depth and reach of this prolific network.

Lots of the events are nearly or already sold out, but not all of them, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a badge for all of (actually not for a lot of) the events. (P.S. be nice and RSVP if you can.) But hey, maybe you crash one or two and make a friend and get a free t-shirt or a drink (I know I’ve already gotten several of each and it’s only Monday = #signofagreatweek ) and start exchanging ideas. That’s kind of what they’re going for here. See the full schedule.

“We’re inviting the community to not only participate, but to drive an agenda.” said Jen Consalvo, COO of Tech Cocktail, and added “This is about about a region coming together to create something bigger and better. Not only that, but to really come together and shine a light on what’s happening and what can happen in this world. This is not just about DC, this is about creatives and thinkers, and people who want to make a difference.”

“the opening party in full swing” photo courtesy of @Corbett3000

The opening party at Penn Social was a room full of entrepreneurs, product promoters, talent recruiters, and people trying to meet and learn from them. Listen Local First, a DC based initiative creating alternate avenues for local musicians and venues to collaborate with locally owned organizations and businesses, brought  to the festival, and is working with Cannon on an app that will be “like a local Spotify or Pandora” said LLF co-founder Chris Naoum.

“I think DC Week is about putting us on the map and proving that this is an up-and-coming entrepreneur community that has got a lot going on and is going to be successful.” said Danny Boice, co-founder and CTO of Speek, which just closed a million dollar seed round, almost entirely from DC investors. “DC has been kind of a sleeper city in terms of startups. People say you can’t raise money in DC, but we did, and it wasn’t easy, but it never is.”

After being the Series A winner of Distilled Intelligence in October and growing about 12% a week since they launched in June, Speek might be one current flagship of the #DCTech community. However, this is a self-proclaimed tight-knit, openly collaborative community, collectively hunting for new contributors, ways to improve and cross-pollinate ideas, products, solutions and platforms into relentlessly new and better forms.

They’re looking for smart, motivated, innovative people who want to build something.They want to help people start good businesses, and profit from them. (Hello? Did somebody say job-market?) So here’s your chance.  Even if this your first time to hear about it: Find them. Meet them. Make friends with them. These people are up to something great. Something is really going on here.

Some major highlights of DC Week are yet to come in the keynotes, core conference and closing party later this week, but the real gems will only really come to be seen months and maybe years from now. They are the conversations, new connections, and sparks of an idea that maybe, just maybe, will turn into something really great. So for those creatives and thinkers around the District waiting for an invitation to drive and contribute to and build something better, DC Week is an excellent place to start.

Written by friend of the blog, Kaitlynn Hendricks.  Follow her on Twitter.


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