DC Inno by Eric Hal Schwartz
At first glance, the acquisition of D.C. digital advertising and design firm iStrategyLabs by the J. Walter Thompson Company wouldn't seem to affect more than just the 90 or so employees of the company. But to a large local network of startup workers, ISL is more than just a digital ad firm, and the exit could have broad-reaching implications. Founder Peter Corbett, CMO DJ Saul and other members of the team are credited with a critical role in shaping the current incarnation of the D.C. startup community since ISL was founded nearly ten years ago.
Those introductions and connections can be attributed to the DC Tech Meetup that ISL's leaders helped found. The monthly gathering now regularly gets hundreds of attendees at each meeting and set the foundation for a lot of other official and unofficial meetups, hackathons and other organizations. The meetup offers local tech companies the chance to showcase and preview projects or products, while attendees can ask questions of the presenters and network with each other.
"Peter and DJ were pioneers in the creation of our DC Tech community that we all know and love," MakeOffices CMO and DC Tech Meetup co-organizer Shana Glenzer told me. "They used ISL as a platform for investment in this community. We’re here in large part due to them - especially DC Tech Meetup."
ISL's impact on the District likely won't end even after the transition is complete. In some ways, it might actually draw more eyes to the area and boost its reputation. And the deeper connection to New York City and Thompson headquarters could facilitate a kind of inter-city sharing of ideas and knowledge that benefit both.
"The acquisition of ISL is further proof that D.C. is a startup hub and a creative city," said Social Tables founder and CEO Dan Berger. "As one of the strongest brands in DC and the pioneers of #dctech, this is a big win for the District."
"I’m confident they’ll continue to support the ecosystem they’ve built while expanding fully to NYC," Glenzer said. "Perhaps even helping us build stronger bridges between the NYC Tech and DC Tech communities."