A Reflection on the Global Trends We Have Seen This Year
As the year 2020 comes to an end, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on the trends we have seen over the last 12 months. In conversation with our team around the globe, we have identified and summarized some of the major shifts in, but not limited to, our main program locations in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, and our Next Step program locations in Japan, South Korea, and India. While it may seem the pandemic has pulled many of us further apart, it is interesting to see the many trends that have developed on a global scale. All in all, digital transformation has been accelerated at hyperspeed and changed the way we live and work. We are happy to share our insights and are curious to see how these will continue to shape our future.
The #1 Global Trend: The Zoom-Boom
One cannot talk about 2020 without mentioning the rise of the Zoom economy. Companies have managed to keep their businesses and the economy going by transitioning their in-person office to the virtual space. While not being the only tool available to meet and connect online, it certainly is one most of us have used many times at this point. Zoom has risen to be a global leader in its field, and while it has been a steady companion for us before, when communicating globally, we sure made even more use of it this year.
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- The Rise of the “Podcast MBA”: Many people took the time during the Spring lockdown to become content creators. And no, we don’t mean your “average” Tik-Toker. Influential people and known podcast producers such as Guy Kawasaki, as well as other subject matter experts, like Howard Lindzon, are producing great free and easy-to-access content. This has allowed others to educate themselves on first-hand business knowledge from philanthropists, partners at Venture Capital firms, CEOs, and more.
- To the Moon and More – Space Tech Acceleration: The aerospace industry has had a big year. Most recently, SpaceX’s Dragon-1 launched, which is a big step forward for the industry in terms of activity and another indicator that the future of space exploration and development will likely be driven by, or at least in part, private companies.
- E-commerce Now Accounts for Over 30% of All Purchases in the U.S.: Shopify, a platform that’s home to 1+ million merchants, reported that Black Friday sales increased 75% annually to $2.4 billion, per Retail Brew. Its stock is up more than 160% this year. At the same time, far fewer people are shopping at brick-and-mortar locations. U.S. store visits dropped more than 50% on Black Friday from last year.
- The Exodus from Cities: The promise of remote work has allowed people the opportunity to depart the cities, move around, and work remotely. From East Coast to West Coast, people are giving up the fast-paced city life and are looking for more space in the U.S. suburbs and rural areas. It is not at all clear if this trend is here to stay. We hear more and more that the hybrid model is most likely to win, where we will still go to the office, but only once or twice a week.
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- Consumer Expectations and Patient Experience Brought on a Digital Health Boom: The telehealth industry offered patients and healthcare providers contactless solutions to engage with people during the pandemic. This gave digital health startups in B2B or B2C an opportunity to increase their products’ adoption, whether it was for mental health or online patient consultation.
- Race to Vaccine and Upswing for German Biotech Industry: BioNtech, CureVac, and other players joined the race for the Sars-Cov2 vaccine, which also highlighted another trend in vaccine development that could alter the path and timelines of drug discovery as we know it.
- Diagnostics Industry Flourishing – ‘The Value of Knowing’: Another sector of the healthcare industry that received more attention than pre-pandemic is diagnostics. Innovative ways of testing for the newly discovered virus were developed and improved. Tests became cheaper, faster, and more accurate.
- Overall Healthcare Market Growth: Forecasters predict that due to the disruption of clinical trials in 2020, close to $3 billion of new product revenue is at risk. Despite this, the overall market is expected to grow further, with many opportunities in all healthcare sectors for startups to jump in to improve the supply chains, innovate the digital health space, or optimize workflow automation.
Telehealth, Fintech, and More Sectors Are Growing – This is our Recap of Trends from Singapore
- Growing Interest in Digital and Telehealth Startups: Health and Biotech sectors saw more funding in the first half of 2020 than the whole of 2019, up from S$230 million in 2019 to S$342 million in H1. The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for the accelerated adoption of solutions such as telemedicine (consultations that can be conducted through text messaging, web, or mobile apps) and home care (booking on-demand house call services for elderly or home medical services).
- Fintech Continues to Be a Strong Sector: In this category, drivers are companies in the insurtech, payments, and credit space, in line with COVID-19-driven consumer demand and the growing acceptance of online transactions.
- Foodtech Startups on the Rise: Cell-based clean meat company Shiok Meats raised US$12.6 million of Series A funding in September to build the novel commercial pilot plant for their minced shrimp product in 2022. NextGen (co-founded by Timo Recker, a former participant of our Next Step program), a plant-based meat startup, raised seed funding of US$2.2M in October. Singapore was also the first to approve the sale of lab-grown (cultured) meat to consumers. With food security and shortage concerns, these startups and other agritech startups received a wave of VC funding and government support in 2020.
Continuous Shifts in Perspective – Here Are Our Insights from Japan
- An Upward Trend in Open Innovation: An aging population, risk-averse culture, and homogenous environment in Japan have led to a stagnation in innovation and restricted its market growth. More and more Japanese corporations have recognized the issue and are embracing open innovation with foreign companies.
- Breaking the Tradition of Using Hanko Seals (Stamps) in Administrative Processes: Japan has a business practice of using stamps instead of signatures as proof of identity and acknowledgment in internal and external company processes, e.g. contract signing. As Japanese employees were not allowed to bring home their Hanko, many employees were headed back to their offices just to stamp documents during this pandemic. To help people stay at home, business leaders in Japan have pledged to reduce paperwork. This shift will create opportunities for startups in digital contracts, security, and digitization of Japans’ paper processes.
- A Cultural Shift in the Acceptance of Virtual Meetings: Before the pandemic, all initial and introductory business meetings were done face-to-face. Generally, virtual meetings with new prospects and customers were not acceptable. With the impact of the pandemic situation and everyone encouraged to work from home, there is a shift in the Japanese mindset. This transformation supported our virtual program, and introductions to potential Japanese customers and partners virtually were highly successful.
A Global Market Leader from Cosmetics to 5G – These are the Trends from South Korea
- Growth in Home Shopping, E-commerce, and Food Delivery Apps Amid COVID-19: COVID-19’s impact is broad and uncertain. Home shopping, e-commerce, and food delivery apps have experienced a boost, whereas the biggest losers in the manufacturing sector were automobiles, and in the service sector, hotels, and restaurants.
- New Opportunities in Product Innovation in Cosmetic Industry: South Korea’s cosmetics and entertainment industry are famous worldwide, bolstering its home market and export activities. With the advancement of technology, in March 2020, South Korea introduced the world’s first customized cosmetics system, enabling consumers to customize cosmetic products based on their individual skin condition and preferences. An example of this is a tailored 3D mask now offered by a local flagship cosmetic store in South Korea.
- South Korea Continues to Lead the 5G Market Globally: Supported by the early launch of 5G services and coverage, South Korea leads the 5G market globally with very high adoption rates. 5G customers represent 10% of total mobile subscriptions in South Korea. For a technology that requires a 5G infrastructure, South Korea may prove to be a good testbed for those products and solutions.
Digital Transformation Driving Many Sectors – Here Are the Trends in India
- Telemedicine is Trending: Similar to other countries, diagnostics, digital health solutions, and telemedicine have increased in response to the pandemic and create further access to health services while also maintaining affordability for millions of Indians. In March, regulatory guidelines called for an increase in spending with a prospective market growth of 48% per year.
- Cleantech & Sustainability Solutions on the Rise: Many large corporates, both Indian and multinational corporations (MNCs), show heightened interest in cleantech and sustainability solutions. The topic has significantly moved up on the agenda due to the pandemic. Based on increasing awareness that the longer India delays acting on climate change, the more expensive the required response will become. India is a hot market for solutions that mitigate climate effects while positively impacting companies’ bottom lines.
- Digital Transformation in Manufacturing & Logistics: India has suffered massively from disrupted supply chains during the pandemic, which led to increased demand in digital logistics solutions as well as industry 4.0 solutions that connect value and supply chain, both locally and internationally. This ties right into the country’s “Make-in-India” mission.
All in all, it has been an eventful year for everyone. Many of the trends have substantially influenced the way we work and live around the globe. Although not all are here to stay, we look forward to how these trends will continue into 2021 and beyond.