OMG! New name for downtown space reflects evolution of Orlando tech

There was certainly little mystery to the name “Orlando Gamespace” when the coworking space for small gaming tech companies launched in 2016, eventually moving into its current location next to Lake Eola.

Nearly every business located there in those early days worked on video game-related projects.

However, as the need for game-development skills started to expand into industries that on the surface have little to do with video games, the companies started landing a variety of projects.

The evolution led to Tuesday when Executive Director Kunal Patel announced that the Gamespace would now be known as “Orlando Media and Gaming Laboratories.” That is, to put it more succinctly, OMG Labs.

“People were working in VR, AR, working in health, manufacturing, military defense and simulation,” said Patel, who said he wants people to get to know the space as OMG Labs because of the projects being built there. “Some people here are still making video games but that’s not the thing that is the majority anymore.”

City and industry officials joined Patel and the OMG Labs leadership team on Tuesday to celebrate the renaming and share some of the successes.

Visitors to OMG Lab’s grand opening on June 13 could take a spin on an HTC Vive virtual reality headset.

One project, in particular, stands out as being a formative one that sustained the community’s growth.

In 2015, NASA sought companies to produce several VR projects.

They wanted to give visitors a chance to virtually board the International Space Station, among other things.

The companies in the Gamespace put together a proposal – and won.

Patel said the pitch was a lot of work and there were unforeseen complications.

However, in the end, it was a worthy project that laid the groundwork for Orlando Gamespace’s future.

“It was an entire MBA in one fell swoop,” he said. “But it became a hallmark project everyone was proud to be a part of. More importantly, it brought money to different teams so they could grow and do more.”

That collaborative project set the Gamespace – now OMG Labs – on its present course.

The transition represents how the community has grown from just a few people wanting to hang out and work near each other.

“It began because a lot of us were friends,” he said, noting community members like Derrick Barra, Tony Bagsby and Chad Hoover, among others, were instrumental in the space’s establishment. “It became something so much more and we now work in so many other industries.”

Patel sat down with Orlando Tech News for a brief chat on the transition.

Orlando Tech News: What was it like to work on that NASA project?

Kunal Patel: It was exhilarating. In football terms, it was us taking a project from end zone to end zone. We saw they had some needs so we put together a coalition and spent a day out there. But it bonded everyone. We knew other industries also used video game tech. And we started to see our members get those contracts.

OTN: Take us back to the early days. What was the catalyst for starting Orlando Gamespace?

A mural on the wall could be turned into an augmented reality display through a cell phone. The display was built by a company that calls the new OMG Labs home.

Kunal: I had more space than I needed. Instead of working alone somewhere in the garage or a spare bedroom, you could come work here and be next to others working in the same technologies.

OTN: As you’ve grown as a community, Indienomicon has emerged as the overall organization that oversees game jams in Orlando. How does that relate to Gamespace?

Kunal: Inside of this office was the business side of things so it was here we set out to answer the question of how we build businesses and drive revenue. It has become so much more and that’s why we are changing the name.

OTN: What do you attribute the space’s success to?

Kunal: I don’t know if it’s the case of the right personality types being close to each other but the people who are here are vetted. You have to be talented and be working on the right kind of venture. People are not here by accident. They are here by some vetting process. Everybody has to have that community mindset.

OTN: Can you talk a little bit about the relationships within the space, many of which go back years?

Kunal: We wish the best for each other but it doesn’t mean we are necessarily collaborating on everything. That said, if another company in here experiences a win, there is a chance they hire others in the space. Maybe a few months later they pay it forward. Part of this is that if you have enough people who are ambitious and trying to move the ball and trying new things, that will inspire you. A big thing here is that you want to fight complacency. You can be doing something and get a win under your belt but you can’t be complacent because the next competition might be coming, as is the next opportunity.

OTN: How have you seen not just the businesses here but the Gamespace and its business end mature over the years?

For the party, OMG Labs leaders hired a local business to create foam letters that visitors could take their pictures with.

Kunal: It’s like going from childhood to being a preteen to being a teenager and then going to college. We are mature enough now to understand different concepts but sometimes you still need that guidance and you’re not yet completely on your own. Like in any kind of business, you have your customers and here we have our members. Those members have products they are building, trying to get their own customers. You want to help people grow. There should always be something new happening so as OMG lab grows, it serves its members so that they can grow, too.

OTN: One thing Gamespace does a good job at, I feel, is community involvement. How important is that to your growth and sustainability?

Kunal: We have been at this for more than a decade. Over that time, you build a network and you build an understanding of the different dots in the community and how they connect. They support what is happening here because it’s an indicator of the overall story of Orlando. If there are successes here, it strengthens the things Orlando knows is its strengths, like 3D video games and modeling and simulation. This is where the hard work is done and where things are built. They know that if this grows the entire story of Orlando grows, as well. That leads into things like Creative Village and the growth overall of metro Orlando.