Inside the Digital Mission to DC #dm2dc

So we are back at the Chinwag towers after a great Digital Mission to Washington, and I’ve found myself reflecting on the goings on of the past week, who we met, what we saw, where we went and what we came away with. I think it is safe to say the trip was a huge success and we caused just the right amount of havoc.

I am going to try and fit in the weeks activities into one blog post…wish me luck.

Monday 11th July

The first morning saw the mission group head to Microsoft’s shiny new offices in central DC for a in-depth Masterclass about doing business in Washington. After some much needed breakfast and coffee we started the intense morning sessions which covered everything from legal practicalities to inside knowledge and know how from those who have made the move and succeeded.

The first session tackled the legal practicalities of launching or expanding a business into the US market, including those "red flag" issues that every company needs to know.

The group were very lucky to hear from Chuck Morton and Susan Edlavitch from the law firm, Venable LLP and with Louise Eldridge, joning the group as a Digital Mission observer from UK based law firm Finers Stephens Innocent LLP, interviewing we really got into the issues of setting up, staffing up, paying up and keeping up.

The next session, ”Inside the Beltway: Supporting Your Start in DC” saw the group get an overview of the digital sector in the Washington area. It focused on the opportunities for UK firms setting up, examined the support available from local and national agencies, how to access this help and the best way to use it.

The session was chaired by Spencer Mahony, Regional Director, South East (US) at UK Trade & Investment and included Matt Erskine from the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Jack Bienko, Deputy Director of Small Business Administration on the panel.

After a quick break we were into the next session, “Inside the Beltway: The Industry view” which focused on hearing from speakers representing a range of organisations from large to small.

The panel included Scott Johnson, Principal at Rock Creek Strategic Marketing , Steve Radick, Lead Associate from Booz Allen Hamilton and David Almacy, Senior Vice President at Edelman. The group heard how these companies engage with government and NGOs in DC and how to target corporations directly. Discussions also covered the best way to connect to the business community and got the inside track on making the most of the opportunities.

The final session, “Views from the Trenches”, gave our companies unique insight with tales and success stories from those who have ‘been there’ and ‘done that’. Including Richard Murby, Open Government Consultant at the World Bank and Danielle Whelton, Senior Vice President Operations and Strategic Engagement at Home Front Communications.

The Masterclass finished with the mission group enjoying a hearty lunch, whilst playing some video games on the super large screen in the Microsoft office while enjoying the view of DC.

Kathryn Corrick, one of the mission co-organisers live-blogged the sessions: Doing business in the USA: inside the beltway – the industry view and Doing business in the USA: Inside the beltway – supporting your start in DC.

After a little break, we made our way over the bridge to the lovely Arlington area to visit our hosts for the evening, Deloitte, who very kindly put on a VIP reception for the mission.

After playing on all the very cool interactive TV screens it was onto introductions. We were very lucky to hear from Adam Sharp, Twitter's government and politics lead, then each company had the chance to showcase their pitch - 2 minutes to dazzle the room, they all did a brilliant job! After the pitches were over it was time to work the room and exchange business ideas.

After all this excitement, jet lag hit and it was back to the hotel for some food and an early night.

Tuesday 12th July

Tuesday morning, and it was time for the Digital Mission road trip to Annapolis.  We all hopped into our hired coach, and made our way over. I have to say trying to pour coffee for 20 people in a moving vehicle was slightly tricky, but do-able…just.

We arrived at the State House and were greeted by Beth Blauer, Director of StateStat, who gave us a guided tour of the very impressive State House before leading us up to a StateStat session with the Motor Vehicle Administration, which the group were very kindly invited to sit in on. The session’s very impressive panel included the Chief of State, the Legal Counsel, the Department of Budget and Management, the Duty Chief of State and to our delight, the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley.

Lucky for us, after the StateSate session, the Governor came to chat to the group and even gave us a little guided tour, we felt very privileged.

After the excitement had calmed down, the group got together to chat with the very lovely Bryan Sivak, Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Maryland. He explained the work they do at the state and how the mission companies could become involved.

We were then joined by the Governor’s Communications and New Media Officer, Zoe Pagonis, The Governor’s Director for Energy Policy, Abby Hopper, Elliot Schlanger, Secretary of Information Technology and Frank Perelli, The Governor’s Creative Director. The companies did their second pitch of the week and engaged with the panel.

After the in-depth pitching session, the group along with Beth and Bryan and headed down to a lovely sunny restaurant next to the bay and had crab for lunch, a smashing time was had by all, a definite must do whilst in Annapolis. 

The group returned back to DC and that evening we all headed to the DC Tech MeetUp.

Wednesday 13th July

On Wednesday morning, the team headed to Affinity Lab, an awesome shared co-working space in central DC. We had a tour of the building, before hearing from Philippe Chetrit, Clay Johnson, Peter Corbett and and Chris Olson.

The guys at Affinity Lab were kind enough to let the group hang around and use their wifi to catch up on emails before heading to Deloitte for our second visit of the week.

The afternoon consisted of two really great sessions. The first, “Industry Briefings” saw the group hear from Scott Johnson from Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, David Almacy from Edelman and Steve Radick, Lead Associate for Booz Allen Hamilton's digital strategy and social media practice.

The second session was all about Gov 2.0 and the group got to hear from Jessica Richmond from Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, Steve Lunceford, Communications Strategist working for DeloitteGov and Jenn Gustetic Associate Director at Phase One.

The session ended with some very cool guys from the GovLab telling us about some of the great projects they are working on.

After a busy in-depth day the group headed to the very stylish Georgetown for some dinner and relaxed drinks by the river.

Thursday 14th July

Thursday was the last full day of the mission, and what a day it was. We started it off at the U.S Department of State, where Lovisa Williams chatted to the group about the effectiveness of social media, the challenges of technology use in the government and an in-depth discussion on the role of innovation and how this applies to the government space.

Following this, the companies did their quick pitches (which, by now, were near perfect) and Lovisa spoke to the companies individually about how the U.S. Department of State could help them with their ventures.

After passing a food truck and tucking into some curry in the park it was onto TheWorld Bank where the companies introduced themselves before hearing from Tiago Peixoto from The World Bank, Dan McSwain from The Federal Communications Commission, Julia Eisman, New Media Director at The Dept. of Health and Human Services and Amanda Eamich from USDA.

For the final session of the day, the group took a trip to the White House Conference Centre. Although pretty cool in itself, it got better when Nick Maynard, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director and in charge of StartUp America dropped in to chat to the group.

We then heard from Chris Vein, Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation, Cammie Croft Director of New Media at the Department of Energy and Tammi Marcoullier Program Manager at the General Services Administration.

After a few *(essential)* group pics in front of the White House, we headed to Lost Society’s rooftop for the Digital Mission’s closing event - OpenAir DC. The event was full of speakers and event hosts from the week, along with a huge list of federal agencies and tech individuals from the DC area. It was a great night, and a brilliant way to spend our last evening together in DC. 

As a final moment, a group of us headed to the Lincoln Memorial to reminisce on the week we’d had and with no-one else there, it really was a moment to remember. 

Friday 15th July

I think it is safe to say there were a few sore heads on Friday morning, but we pulled ourselves together and headed out to the very cool DC Google offices to hear from Ginny Hunt about opportunities for start-ups in DC.

Meanwhile, some of the group visited The House of Representatives for a last minute meeting, before we re-grouped at Google in time for lunch and a wonder round then the time came for the very last meeting of the week at The Corporation for National and Community Service.

And that was it, meetings done, contacts made, business cards given, twitter names swapped, the week had come to an end. I don’t think it would have been possible to fit much more in!

So that just leaves us to say a huge thank you to the 10 great mission companies that joined us: AMEE,, CardonCulture, Firmstep, Huddle, Locality, Open Cinema, OurSay, Public-i and WebsEdge it was a pleasure to spend the week with you.

Another huge thank you goes to all the event hosts and speakers during the week, thanks for much for being involved.

And finally, we could not have done it without the excellent team we had behind us: Dominic Campbell from Future Gov (“Connections Man" in DC), Leon Tong from Bright Lemon and Kathryn Corrick

So I think all that’s left to say is…thanks for having us DC, we will be back.

Photos (cc) Chinwag, Dominic Campbell and Francesca Heath.