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DC Digital Capital Week: The Early Scoop on What’s in Store

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The forces behind DC Digital Capital Week the 8-day tech fest that debuted to much fanfare last summer in the nation’s capital knew that for round #2, they’d have to make an even bigger splash. So they chose 1/11/11 to unveil the 2011 incarnation of the event, scheduled for Nov 4-11, 2011. Cofounder Peter Corbett, head of D.C.-based interactive firm iStrategyLabs, sat down to give the scoop on five key updates for this year’s DCWeek, v2.0.

1. Expect it to be bigger. Way bigger.
The 2010 fest garnered 6,000 registered attendees when it debuted in June. In the first 72 hours of open registration for 2011, numbers topped 2,000 alone. Corbett says he expects this year, registered attendees could reach up to 10K about 20-30% of which will likely come from afar. Last year saw 200+ panels and events (including a 2,200-person kick-off party where 40 kegs were guzzled in four hours. Because let’s not forget the very fun social aspect of the week as well.) This year, organizers are aiming for 300-400 fest sessions, panels, parties and other events.

2. Plan to trek to every corner of the city and beyond.
Last year, the rule was that events had to be in DC proper. This year, Maryland and Virginia venues are also fair game as is a concerted effort to reach more sections of the city limits. “We’d like to get the Northwest crowd migrating to other places and start to bridge that cultural-digital divide,” Corbett says. A tech trek to Anacostia? That’s the goal.

3. A larger conference = more notable names.
Along with the bigger numbers comes major sponsors Corbett says more than 120 companies have already inquired about sponsorship opportunities for 2011 (last year, the total number of sponsors numbered 30). And that growth means more chances to bring in marquee speakers. Dream keynote? “What would we love? Certainly someone with the last name of Zuckerberg either Mark or Randi,” Corbett says. Just as important as that, he says, is that the “keynotes also understand what happens here. This city is the lever that moves the world.”

To build buzz leading up to November’s fest, there will be a series of mini-experiential events, including co-working days for entrepreneurs to collaborate, happy hours and big-name breakfasts (Corbett wouldn’t spill who, but promised “a name we all know” very soon). Stay tuned.

4. Free is key.
Like last year, DC Week aims to be almost completely free. “We want to make most of it as free as possible, because that content is what people need in order to progress,” says Corbett, who thinks the gratis component could quickly help the DC fest catch up to biggie gatherings like SXSW Interactive, which saw 15,000 attendees last year but also sports a hefty $450 starting ticket fee.

5. Crowd-sourcing is at the core.
“What do people want? We’ll create it,” says Corbett, who anticipates that, due to the crowd-sourced nature expected behind much of the lineup, the final fest schedule won’t even be set until the summer. Crucial to the process is the return of the “projects” submission forum, where anyone can submit or vote on ideas for events, panels or activities they’d like to see in the DCWeek program.

Based on each idea’s ingenuity and visitor votes, organizers pluck the best ideas from the pack and find them funding and venues. Last year, 12,000 voters garnered 38,000 votes, and 28 projects were funded. This year, Corbett is hoping to another 30-50 original ideas.

What would YOU like to see at DCWeek this year? (I’d personally love more panels focused on tech in creative fields, like fashion, art and entertainment. Just because DC sometimes has a, shall we say, poor reputation for these things doesn’t mean it isn’t of relevance to many of us.) Leave a note in the comments we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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