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Alum's digital agency invents ways to engage communities

Peter Corbett 03B was no ordinary Emory student. During his senior year, Corbett walked into one of Atlanta’s largest nightclubs and told the manager that in one month he would be back with a plan for a concert that would “blow his mind.” Corbett’s concert hosted Grammy-nominated talent and nearly 5,000 people. Over time, he’d come to know, “My future was not going to be like my friends,” Corbett said. “Their careers were more traditional.”

Now, Corbett is the CEO of iStrategyLabs, a digital agency that crafts campaigns, websites, apps, animations, social strategy and multi-day festivals. As their website states, “Everyday, we invent solutions that make for happy clients.” 

Corbett didn’t start his professional life as a globally recognized leader. Indeed, Corbett’s career path has been anything but traditional. He grew up as a programmer and began reading the Wall Street Journal when he was 12. By 27, Corbett had immersed himself in digital strategy and business development, rising quickly to the top of a 200-person agency with offices in Washington, DC.

He reflects, “I was pitching and winning huge accounts; I had closed millions of dollars in new business.” Corbett’s compensation was structured such that he earned commission for any deal he closed. But, one Friday in 2007, Corbett was laid off by management – and he was suddenly out hundreds of thousands of dollars. “It was hugely unfair. Seventy percent of the business revenue I brought in was paying the salaries of the people in that office.”

Fuming, Corbett did the “whole laid off thing” that weekend. But, that following Monday morning, he launched – the business that would become one of the best known digital ad agencies in DC, and later the US. Confidence pushed him forward. “It was just a simple Wordpress website with a logo I had designed when I started. To be honest, I didn’t necessarily have an idea – I just didn’t want to get a job.”

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