Finnish Extended Reality Nation’s ambassador, Joh Orengo, is a self-professed “Swiss Army knife”. And no wonder why, as his career has spun from teaching English at the University of Helsinki to some epic multitasking at a successful Finnish spatial computing startup, Grib, where he worked in business development, content creation, marketing, and sales. Joh is due to arrive in Riga for the first time on August 23, 2019, where he is a keynote speaker at the annual Cross-Industry Meetup organized by Latvian tech communities. He will be sharing his thoughts on the Finnish XR ecosystem as well as outline his aim of establishing an international network of professionals at the event. We sat down with Joh, to get a quick sneak peek of his ideas before his debut in Riga.
“XR… is kind of like the Wild West… As an entrepreneur, you can get your stake in a place that nobody is in right now and become a pioneer.”
Holding a postgraduate degree in social sciences, one may wonder why Joh left his English teaching role to join a tech start-up back in 2018 and is now an industry ambassador. That’s what happens when you seek out new challenges, he reflects. “I was on the lookout for something more thrilling. And, to me, that’s what the start-up world is all about. Day-to-day you are faced with challenges and can use all the skills that you have in your arsenal. You’re constantly learning.
“As for XR, when I got the opportunity to join Grib, I got introduced to this whole new world, which is kind of like the Wild West. I see huge potential here. As an entrepreneur, you can get your stake in a place that nobody is in right now and become a pioneer. That is what I love about the industry and why I got so easily immersed in it, no pun intended.”
Developing XR Nation
These days Joh is shaping the future of XR Nation in Finland, which aims to map the XR ecosystem across the Nordics and Baltics and create a platform that brings together the region’s tech talent and entrepreneurs. “Understanding the status quo of the current XR landscape is key to my mission at XR Nation. It’s the only way to find the gaps that need to be filled. For example, I know that Overly has organized three AR/VR Hackathons in Latvia in recent years, but there is no one doing that specifically in Finland,” Joh tells. “When we find a need, we can look to see if there are any start-ups, non-profits or events that could address it.”
He also points out that interconnectedness is key to utilizing the vast opportunities of the XR sector. “You have XR communities in different countries in the region, but there isn’t any one overarching body that helps the information flow or organizes cross-industry meetups. We can’t stand apart and expect to compete with the other great XR hubs in China and the US. We need to make connections with AI experts, see how computer vision and haptics are developing, and so on.
“We need to have a connected spatial computing community online and offline where people can find out what others are doing in different fields, where professionals can meet each other and form partnerships, learn of opportunities and best practices. I’d like to help develop an information source online for the industry in the region, for example, in the form of an online magazine.”
Updated September 5, 2019: Check out the Cross-Industry Meetup Vol.2 photo recap on Facebook