Peter Kang ’05 Takes The Varsity Show Online
By Joshua Robinson ’08
Throughout his senior year, Peter Kang ’05’s goal was to get a job at a New York investment bank. Then he got a job at a New York investment bank.
Though it paid well, the job didn’t live up to his expectations. The hours were long and the work was tedious. What really captivated him was his work outside the office, running a small Web design business with his friend, Sei-Wook Kim ’07E, in the wee hours of the morning.
“It was pretty hectic when I was at Lehman Brothers,” Kang says with a laugh. “Every day I’d go to work at 9 a.m. and come home around midnight, sometimes even later. Then from midnight until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., I’d work on Web stuff. We’d get out a little early on Fridays — 9 p.m. — and then Sei-Wook and I would work until the morning. We did this nonstop for about six months; it was the only way we were able to keep up.”
After a single year in banking, Kang quit his day job.
In summer 2006, he and Kim formalized their Web design firm, naming it Barrel (www.
barrelny.com). Designing sites for student organizations had been a way for the pair to give something back to the Columbia community. But working at a discount wasn’t going to prop up their new enterprise.
“We realized that we’d done four Columbia group sites and maybe it was time to focus on more business-oriented ventures,” Kang remembers. “We couldn’t be stuck doing college sites forever. But then the Varsity Show project rolled around.”
Kang and Kim came highly recommended by Nishant Dixit ’07. They had designed the Web site for his unsuccessful run at the CCSC presidency last year. So when Dixit heard about the plan to build the institutional site for The Varsity Show from producers Olivia Gorvy ’08 and Geoffrey Karapetyan ’07, he went straight to Kang and Kim. It was too appetizing for them to pass up.
“It’s not just a club site where people go and check out events,” Kang says. “There’s a huge alumni network for The Varsity Show. There’s also a lot of interest within the [Columbia] community, and not just from people involved with it. The producers gave us books, DVDs, photos and a lot of text. We digested as much as possible to give them a look that would reflect the group’s personality.”
Collaborating with the producers starting in November 2006, Kang and Kim set about designing what Kang calls “a stained-glass look with a wide color palette.” As he describes this, someone sitting at a computer across the Lerner Hall lounge is staring at a brightly-colored page that Kang recognizes. “Yeah, that’s it,” he says — a testament to the popularity of www.thevarsityshow.com, which offers downloadable music from past years, photos, history and video clips.
By December, the layout was finished, but only because the pair worked at breakneck speed. “I was in school full-time and Peter had a pretty crazy schedule,” Kim remembers. “So whatever time we had needed to be pretty high-paced.”
They finished the project in about two months and met their deadline, the end of winter break. But it was not without ratcheting up their efforts at the end. “We were working 15–16 hour days for at least a week. If we had taken it at a normal pace, we might have needed three or four months.”
Being busy is nothing new for Kang, who toyed with Internet sites through high school. When he arrived in Morningside Heights, he began Web work for a number of organizations around campus, building a solid reputation. After his sophomore year, Columbia/Barnard Hillel gave his confidence a major boost. With its site in need of a redesign, the group pitted Kang against a professional firm to compete for the contract. Winning it surprised Kang more than anyone.
From there he never looked back, working on sites for the DSP fraternity, the Non Sequitur a cappella ensemble and the Korean Students Association. “We wanted to give other groups a chance to have something good, but affordable, that wasn’t just whipped up by students who didn’t have time but by people who were in this to make money,” Kang says.
In 2005, Kang’s work paid off and earned him some of the highest recognition on campus. During his tenure as KSA president, the group won the Student Development & Activities Alma Mater Award for the organization that best embodies the ethic of community building at Columbia. “Just a year before we were in a shambles, this little-known Korean club. I’m happy to think that the Web site and branding played a major part.”
Kang and Kim’s business is growing. Barrel’s newest venture is Barrel to Bottles, a simple site that features four wines from New York wine stores, with more to be added soon (www.barreltobottles.
com) — he is proud of his work at the school. But none of his accomplishments at Columbia can compare to the Varsity Show Web site for popular appeal.
“Geo and I are hard to please,” Gorvy says, “but Peter and Sei-Wook had this highly functional and aesthetic vision from the beginning and they did a wonderful job.”
Joshua Robinson ’08 is a regular contributor to The New York Times as well as CCT. His articles also have appeared in The Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.