Peter Corbett is the founder of community-building digital agency iStrategy Labs. He’s also regarded by many as the driving force behind establishing DC as a tech industry hub. But the most impressive thing Corbett’s ever done? Rigged a cooler to dispense beverages only when the person who desperately wanted those beverages checked in on Foursquare -- that is GENIU$. We tapped him to tell us who in DC impressed him the most with their own fearless innovation. Here’s what he came back with.
How DC tech scene champion Peter Corbett does DC
Innovative Wellspring of Innovation: 1776
In his early 30s, Evan Burfield's already sold two companies, but Corbett calls this six-month-old "urban entrepreneurial campus, incubator, and accelerator" Burfield's most ambitious project yet. With 100+ start-ups already calling it home, the "frequent stop over point for senators, queens and superhero entrepreneurs" recently announced its 16-city global Challenge Cup competition. Additionally, it also hosts a ton of casual events for people looking to get into the game, from fireside chats, to garden parties, to Internpalooza -- a celebration of that magical time when you don't get paid, but also don't have to work on Vampire Weekends.
Innovative Culture: CONNERSMITH and Emerge Art Fair
Corbett credits Leigh Conner and Jamie Smith with unifying the DC contemporary art community through always-must-see shows at the gallery, and an annual fair where the only thing deep-fried is your brain after attempting to deal with the overload of groundbreaking ideas. They "see young talent in this town first -- and know how to help build their profiles into national recognition".
Innovative Culture, DIY Edition: ArtJamz
Hailing founder Michael Clements' passion for enabling the expression of creativity, Corbett predicts this combo people's art salon and lounge could expand past Dupont Circle "to include hundreds of locations over the next few years". Not bad for a company born when a group of friends looked at each other and said the five words that all-too-rarely launch a successful enterprise, "Wouldn't it be great if...".
Innovative Outlook on What DC's All About: Worn Magazine
Nicole Aguirre (above), a 1776 resident who also runs the agency Worn Creative, has become "the epicenter of a creative community that's rebelling against the staid perception people have of DC". Her biannual fashion print mag -- whose fabulous edition release parties you, yes you, can buy tickets for -- makes DC seem cooler than Milan, and not just because Milan's supposed to be a terrible city. If you're wondering what the latest seersucker trends are, or why this attractive woman in a bikini was standing around the Georgetown Waterfront with a dude who was also not wearing very much, grab a copy before it's gone.
Innovative Color: Sweetgreen
"Nate Ru and the two co-founders of Sweetgreen are the perfect example of entrepreneurial hustle in DC", says Corbett. "They graduated from Georgetown about four years ago, and in short order have build a dozen+ salad restaurant chain that hipsters, families and professionals flock to up and down the East Coast". Corbett also gives them props for their not resting on piles of crouton money, and instead launching the massive Sweetlife Food & Musical Festival, a.k.a., "Where Kendrick Lamar Meets Carbon Neutrality".
Innovative Restaurateur: Omar Popal
"Omar Popal is leading the charge in DC with regard to European influenced food and cafe concepts". Specifically that means Malmaison (above), Café Bonaparte, and Napoleon, all of which are "impeccable, with the recent addition of Malmaison rapidly taking over as a hidden gem under a bridge in Georgetown that the beautiful people of DC love to frequent". So, look forward to seeing smoldering Thrillist DC editor Leo Schmid.
Old Fashion Innovation: Bar Dupont
"Their Old Fashion is probably the best in the world". Sometimes the most forward-thinking thing to do is to think backward. Also, sometimes the most forward-thinking thing to do is to eat that entire bird off the cafe menu.
1. Cafe Dupont1500 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington
2. Malmaison3401 K St NW, Washington
3. Napoleon Bistro & Lounge1847 Columbia Rd NW, Washington
4. Cafe Bonaparte1522 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington
5. Sweetgreen1471 P St NW, Washington
6. ArtJamz Dupont Studio1742 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC
7. ConnerSmith Gallery1358 Florida Ave NE, Washington
The Snowball Fight homebase has just whipped up a "French brasserie style" menu to go along with its chandelier-happy soft remodeling, complete with winsome cocktailry like the sparkling wine/St. Germain elderflower "Dupont Imperial".
The 4200sqft Malmaison is an upscale Parisian cafe with garage door openings that at night turns into a state-of-the-art lounge. If you like your French with an elevated DJ booth, this is your place.
Like Cafe Bonaparte before it, Napoleon Bistro continues the expansion of the Omar Papal's French empire -- so expect award winning champagne, crepes galore, and a land war in Russia.
Since 2003, Cafe Bonaparte has been Georgetown's (and D.C.'s) biggest name in casual French cuisine. This cute spot has everything you want in a French cafe: fresh baked pastries, crepes, croque madame, and steak frites, along with plenty of other fresh selections from salad to burgers. From the moment you spot its red awning and outdoor seating, you'll feel as though you've been transported to the streets of Paris.
Sweetgreen is known for its customizable salads and grain bowls topped with locally-sourced ingredients. The fast-casual chain changes its menu seasonally, but signatures like the wild rice- and kale-based Harvest Bowl and mesculin Guacamole Greens are always available, as is the option to create your own bowl from scratch. Your order is prepared assembly line-style behind a glass counter, and you can usually see greens being washed and vegetables being chopped in the open kitchen.
The just-opened, permanent home of previously gypsy-like paint-/booze-facilitators ArtJamz, the studio's split into a 24-easel painting area, and a lounge with bench seating and a three-stool bar, so show up early, or you'll have to, you know, paint.
Mixing pretty much every kind of media there is, CONNERSMITH Gallery puts together shows that stretch the boundaries of what anyone previously thought DC's art scene was capable of.