11 hours with Peter Corbett: 'Need to find the paper airplanes!'

Photo: Joshua Yospyn

Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs and local tech maven, agreed to let TBD follow his every move during one day of DCWeek, the 10,000-person tech festival he co-founded last year. On Wednesday, he and his staff spent the day preparing space at Artisphere for events and setting up the Warner Theater for the week’s keynote speeches. Here is a day in the life of Peter Corbett.



Address staffers at iStrategyLabs headquarters in Dupont. Express pleasure that everyone is healthy. (“This is amazing. Amazing timing.”) Distribute distressed American Apparel T-shirts. Sit at laptop and email potential venture capitalist.

Get up; organize stacks of stickers. Explain which stickers can be taken by public and which must be handed out. Return to laptop.


Hear call for help from other room. (“What’s this box called Lego/Play Doh/Angry Birds?”) Explain what the Legos, Play Doh, and Angry Birds are and where they need to go. Continue communicating with potential venture capitalist.


Issue last-minute requests to staffers. (“Joe, do you want to put snacks in my car? Sam Smith, can you help me? Sarah Sugarman, did you find a medium? DJ Saul, load these snacks in my car please.”)

Pick up case of Red Bull and box of Carr’s Water Crackers. They go in black BMW hatchback.


Action-packed hour commences. Pull up to Artisphere loading dock and unload car. Join DCWeek co-organizer Frank Gruber at the elevator. Comment on difference between elevators overseas and elevators in the U.S. (“I love when you’re in Europe and it’s, like, negative two.”)

Call a huddle with Gruber and the festival’s third organizer, Jen Consalvo, inside. Have terse conversation with Artisphere staff person about what can be set up today.

Adjourn huddle and check out space available for set up. Think aloud about how to arrange it. (“So what would be the best way to do it?”) Develop solution. (“So Jen, Frank, we’re going to section off from here to the speaker.”)

Call another huddle. Sit at table with Gruber and Consalvo and attempt to pull up document relevant to this huddle. Complain that the document cannot be found. Attempt multiple searches and comment on searches’ inefficiency. (“This is so inefficient!”)

Find document and commence discussion of how sponsors’ tables will be organized at the event. Listen to Consalvo’s concerns about AOL. (“Somehow we have to figure out a place for their candy bar.”) Make suggestion. (“I say we take one of these and make it an awesome candy heap.”) Never take eyes or fingertips off laptop.

Express displeasure that different Artisphere staff members had different information about the set-up process. (“You guys should learn how to collaborate.”)

Take phone call; relay the requisite information (“Ask her if she’s got a skirt for her table. If she needs a round table. Etc.”). Hang up.

Spy orange table across room next to Artisphere bar. Wonder aloud if it would suffice for AOL’s candy bar. Get up; approach bartender. (“Hi, is this orange thing yours? Can we use it?”)

Return to laptop and inbox. Learn from Consalvo that one of the festival’s scheduled speakers has broken his leg and is unable to make his flight. Express sympathy. (“With all compassion due, was that one we had to pay to fly here?”)

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