Here Are 7 Startup Trends To Expect In 2021

It’s no exaggeration to say that 2020 has seen headwinds and challenges on several fronts.

On the one hand, Covid-19 has dealt a heavy blow to the different industries and companies have been forced to innovate in order to survive. The startup scene has also been affected.

On the bright side, it also presented new opportunities for startup founders. The startup scene is about to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

We take a look at emerging trends for startups that will likely continue into 2021.


Plant-based meat burger
Image Credit: Next Gen

The year saw the rise of food tech startups such as cell-based clean meat company Shiok Meats and plant-based meat startup Next Gen in developing sustainable meats.

This will persist into 2021 as these startups prepare to launch their expected products.

On the one hand, Shiok Meats raised US $ 12.6 million in Series A funding in September this year, to create the first ad of its kind.
pilot plant from which they plan to launch their chopped shrimp product in 2022.

Next Gen was recently launched in Singapore in October, armed with US $ 2.2 million (S $ 3 million) seed funding. They plan to create a global consumer brand.

Additionally, when Covid-19 first erupted in Singapore, we witnessed several episodes of panic-buying, as Singaporeans flocked to supermarkets to stock up on essentials.

This highlighted the issue of food security in Singapore. With the renewed interest in food security, the country has seen an increase in agricultural technologies (agritech) and food technology startups, as well as a wave of investor funding and government support in the region.

To fight against food shortages, agritech companies are oriented towards the overhaul of farms that no longer need to be constrained by space, climate and manual labor.

With that, food technology is a booming industry, with Forbes predicting that it is expected to exceed US $ 250 billion (S $ 342.8 billion) by 2022.

Robotic delivery

Robot baristas
Image Credit: RATIO

Using robots has always been one thing, but with Covid-19, the use of robots has increased to minimize human contact.

We have seen an increase in kopi robots with Crown Coffee and recently, the RATIO robotics café-salon. We have also seen an increased use of room service robots in hotels, such as YOTEL, as they accommodate stays..

Grocery delivery robots, which are already underway in China with delivery apps like Meituan Dianping, have the potential to reduce the need to be physically in a supermarket to shop for groceries.

Additionally, some Covid-19 patients at Alexandra Hospital had robots delivering their meals and medication.

With these successful implementations, robotic delivery could see a higher participation rate in 2021 and manual tasks could be overtaken by machines.

Telehealth and home medical services

Image Credit: SSIVIX Lab

There is no doubt that there has been an increase in telehealth services such as Doctor Anywhere and White Doctor as Covid-19 has forced us to stay at home.

Telehealth focuses on telemedicine and remote teleconsultations via text messaging, web or mobile applications.

With the implementation by the Ministry of Health of a new regulatory framework for telemedicine by 2022, accelerated development in this area is expected.

Even before Covid 19, telemedicine had already gained ground in Singapore. Accelerating its use is expected to be one of the lasting changes in lifestyles following the pandemic.

Another area that has seen an increase in the adoption rate is in on-demand home call services such as Homage due to Covid-19.

Beyond the care of the elderly, home medical services can offer medical escort to residential care in hospital wards.

With Covid-19, family members can think twice before sending a loved one to a nursing home or assisted living center. Covid-19 has revealed weaknesses in these communities, as the virus entered and spread rapidly.

Therefore, telehealth and home care services could still play a vital role in 2021.

E-commerce 2.0

Online shopping
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E-commerce boomed during Covid-19, with people being forced to stay at home.

“While the first wave of e-commerce brought consumers to online marketplaces, e-commerce 2.0 will reinvent the consumer experience in those markets,” said Yinglan Tan of Insignia Ventures Partners.

We’ll see more e-commerce platforms exploiting new forms of distribution through localized supply chains, data-driven financing options, contactless technology, and personalized content.

This goes hand in hand with greater adoption of digital payments, improvements in logistics infrastructure and a larger population of Internet consumers in the region.

This means that we can expect more markets focused on a set of commodities while developing adjacent services, instead of the other way around.

From a business perspective, this vertical approach to growth paves the way for profitability for markets in a space known for its high cash consumption and low margins.

In Singapore, Carro reinvented the way people buy cars amid Covid-19 with the country’s first contactless car subscription and purchase service.

5G connectivity

5G connectivity
Image Credit: IEEE Innovation At Work

5G connectivity will be the backbone of Singapore’s digital economy as we move towards a smart nation.

5G will be a game-changer globally, creating jobs and revitalizing economies. Globally, it could create 22.3 million jobs and contribute US $ 13.2 trillion to the economy, according to a study by IHS Markit.

Startups here have a lot to look forward to, as 5G capabilities will accelerate innovation in deep technology by supporting machine learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT) at scale and at the edge.

On the one hand, M1 is partnering with SGInnovate to bring the benefits of 5G to start-ups, especially in the healthcare sector.

An example of such an application in the health field would be electrocardiogram (ECG) rhythm monitoring devices.

With 5G, the device will be paired with a phone via Bluetooth, which will then send signals directly to a cloud server database allowing doctors to access patient information, train diagnostics, and create reports.

Blockchain solutions for supply chain management problems generally go hand in hand with IoT and Big Data. 5G will help these solutions overcome their scalability challenges, paving the way for their adoption at scale.

There are plenty of opportunities for breakthroughs with 5G, as Singapore aims to achieve 5G coverage for half of the country by the end of 2022 and national coverage by 2025.

Digital bank

Digital bank
Image Credit: Bank Rate

The rise of digital and challenger banks is being fueled by a greater number of Southeast Asian consumers demanding contactless and convenient platforms to manage their finances, said Yinglan Tan of Insignia Ventures Partners.

This was accelerated by Covid-19, as we avoided going to physical banks or ATMs in order to minimize human contact.

Last year in June, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that it would issue up to five digital banking licenses.

A total of 21 applications were received and Grab-Singtel, Razer Fintech and the Internet Sea company were among the companies that applied.

By 2021, we can expect to see more digital and challenger banks in Southeast Asia.

The digital banking races in Singapore and Malaysia that started this year have ended by then, and the winners will be working hard to launch their offers.

It also coincides with historical and traditional players opening up their banking infrastructure for deeper partnerships with technology companies.

Online education

Online Classes
Image Credit:

Covid-19 moved classroom education to video conferencing and online lessons as schools in Singapore shut down during the breaker.

The pandemic has also highlighted a gap – there is a lack of adoption of educational technology solutions in schools.

According to then Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung, he said that “there are certain strengths in online learning that classroom learning does not have.”

Students can participate in independent learning outside of the classroom. Many institutions have actually been recommended to complete part of their online program even after everything has returned to normal.

In addition, the rise of edtech startups in 2020 such as Koobits and Doyobi has been evident.

According to Holon IQ, funding for edtech startups has increased from $ 500 million in 2010 to $ 7 billion in 2019. An additional $ 87 billion is expected to be invested over the next 10 years.

More trends to emerge

From 5G-related startups to telehealth, these areas have seen tremendous growth in 2020 – and will continue to grow in 2021.

As startups are forced to pivot, we have seen opportunities present themselves as we accept new needs. We can continue to see new trends emerge as industries and sectors reopen.

As companies get back to business, they will embrace digitization and innovate in their post-Covid 19 business processes.

2021 will be an exciting year for startups, especially after a fragile year.

Featured Image Credit: Nikkei Asia / Green Queen / SSIVIX Lab / TripAdvisor / Industry Wired

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Jothi Venkat

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