Meet the talent: Zo Joshua Seong-ho, CEO SPACE ELVIS

Place of residence: Seoul, South Korea

Position: CEO of SPACE ELVIS

Please describe your day at SPACE ELVIS.

I usually prefer to commute by walking rather than taking subways or other public transport, so my place is about 30 minutes away on foot. I start my day by reading a few newsletters piled in my inbox and then get on with my daily duties from 11 a.m. My day at work is usually finished around 4 p.m. because I often skip lunch. Playing golf or having mid-work drinking sessions is not for me, so I mostly spend my time at the office when I am working.

How do you spend your day when you are not working?

I either go to exhibitions or travel around to take photos of small alleyways. I noticed that the number of exhibitions, including pop-up stores, has increased over the years in South Korea. When you visit Seongsu, Seoul, you see various brands of various sizes representing themselves through these pop-up stores based on thoughtful considerations and designs for optimised branding. I learn from their efforts and even from hashtags and reviews left by people who visited such stores.

This year, our goal is to expand our direct-to-consumer projects, even though our work has been mostly done for clients like media producers. In the long run, I think that building a fanbase of our own is better for the sustainability of the business.

Do you have a hobby that you would like to introduce?

Like a one-man band, I play a range of musical instruments. I usually choose one song that I would like to master, start practising every instrument that forms that song, and record the completed version of all instruments. Each instrument’s part takes about a month for me to master, so I need several months to complete one song in full instrumentals. Still, it is a rewarding experience with evident results based on your own practices, unlike running a business, where you face risks and uncertainty.

Can you tell us more about SPACE ELVIS?

From visual effects to extended reality, SPACE ELVIS runs digital transformation projects and provides products and services based on interactive visual technology.

The name “ELVIS” comes from the well-known American singer Elvis Presley. Mr Presly has an interesting musical background — he mixed genres of soul music and jazz and became one of the first people who introduced rock & roll. He had many challenges as a singer but succeeded in spreading his name worldwide. Sometimes, the languages of clients can sound like “alien”. So, to let these clients listen to the inspiring music of Elvis Presley, we named our company SPACE ELVIS.

What is the most important project for SPACE ELVIS now?

It is providing a “spatial experience”. Taking a step beyond head-mounted displays like virtual reality goggles and exhibitional media facades, we want to provide an experience where people can be part of that space.

These days, I feel like people want to have their identities in their social media content. They make sure they appear in photos and videos they upload, and (we hope to recreate such environments that they dream of through technology). For example, let’s say that people want to visit the set where the movie “La La Land” was filmed but can’t due to the distance. We can install an LED screen and some other items to recreate the real filming set at an indoor studio, allowing the visitors to take pictures of themselves in Instagram-worthy moments.

A recent spatial experience project that SPACE ELVIS did was with the Korea Airports Corporation at the Gimpo International Airport. From 20 October to 15 November, we made a set recreating an actual flight with an LED screen window showing Tokyo, Japan landmarks. People could take a photo of themselves being seated there. We hope to have more projects like that this year.

Zo Joshua Seong-ho, CEO of SPACE ELVIS
Zo Joshua Seong-ho, CEO of SPACE ELVIS

When was your most proud moment while working at SPACE ELVIS?

It is when I provide a service that amazes people and moves their hearts, backed by technologies no one has introduced before. Speaking to the hearts of people through computing technologies feels almost like a new-age sorcery to me.

What is your biggest challenge of working in this industry?

It is that I must keep on learning, doing research, and developing new ideas to catch up with emerging technologies. I may try a new technology that was introduced one day, but an advanced tool would be coming out in two months. At this point, learning a new tool is almost meaningless to me – what matters is understanding the concept of it.

In your view, how did COVID-19 impact the overall industry?

Regarding media consumption behaviours, I think people spend more time wasting “data” than watching “content” after the pandemic. They may watch hours of Reels on Instagram but will not remember many. Some doze off while choosing what to watch on Netflix due to its large content catalogue. We also hear stories of people choosing what to watch based on reviews of others instead of making decisions based on their preferences. It seems like it has become more difficult for artists to approach consumers, as their works are not evaluated by solely skills (or levels of completion) anymore.

Well, this is not good news for us. We want more people to come outside, expand their horizons and reflect on themselves through various experiences. (Despite the change in people’s media consumption behaviours) I do not feel compelled to make such snacky, dopamine-inducing content as a company. We hope to offer more high-quality, large-scale content than that to differentiate ourselves.

Joshua Seong-ho, CEO of SPACE ELVIS
Joshua Seong-ho, CEO of SPACE ELVIS

We would like to hear more about your story before joining SPACE ELVIS.

I started my career as an animator and then joined a game company. I then moved to companies that do virtual effects and extended reality, following the market trends. As a kid, I wanted to become a person who did not have to work and play all day. Well, that did not happen.

If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?

Kid, you would need to spend a lot of time working and save up a lot of money if you want to do nothing and play. Just enjoy the process until then, make sure to have fun whenever you can in the meantime – and maybe, don’t get married. Of course, having kids is great, but seeing how your lover changes into a comrade is not that easy.

What are your tips for people wanting to start in the tech world?

When you enter the tech field, you will approach a critical point during your study or workmanship. Before going beyond that point, everyone is around the same level. It is important to persevere in learning and maintain an interest in the field. It is just like how water stays calm until the boiling point is 100℃. Of course, the boiling point may differ depending on the medium or material you are using. So, understand more about you and your thought processes to learn how long it would take to reach that boiling point.

Sunny Um is a Seoul-based journalist working with 4i Magazine. She writes and talks about policies, business updates, and social issues around the Korean tech industry. She is best known for in-depth explanations of local issues for readers who need a better understanding of the Korean context. Sunny’s works appeared in prominent Korean news outlets, such as the Korea Times and Wired Korea. She currently makes regular writing contributions to newsrooms worldwide, such as Maritime Fairtrade, a non-profit media organization based in Singapore. She also works as a content strategist at 1021 Creative. A person who holds a Master’s degree in Political Economy from King’s College London, she loves to follow up on news of Korean politics and economy when she’s not writing.