A review of Singapore’s business and tech landscape for 2022
2022 was supposed to be the year we put the pandemic behind us and enjoy a repeat of the roaring 20s experts predicted would sweep through our society.
Unfortunately, things never do go accordingly to plan. The world collectively took a dark turn when Putin invaded Ukraine. From that moment on, cautious optimism was instead greeted by an onslaught of economic turbulence.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. As the year ends, let us look back at the good, the bad and the ugly in the tech and startup scene that has greeted our shores.
1. Rise of sustainable businesses
With Singapore determined to build a green economy, 2022 has been a bumper year for startups with sustainability at their core.
To begin with, alternative protein startups, long considered a solution to fight climate change associated with agriculture, have made huge inroads into the market.
Since the introduction of plant-based pork by Impossible Foods back in 2021, the agri-food tech scene has developed by leaps and bounds. Numerous alt-protein startups have since based themselves in Singapore, churning out innovative products to help meet our demand for chicken and bridge the taste gap.
If successful, alternative protein could be the key to providing Singapore with the capability to produce its own food locally and sustainably.
In addition to our national obsession with food, we are also seeing businesses come up with creative ideas to reduce waste and fight climate change by promoting a circular economy.
ChopValue, for instance, collects used chopsticks and transforms them into beautiful furniture. Meanwhile, Package Pals recycles second-hand packaging and redistributes them to companies for use in their packaging.
As today’s consumers become more concerned about their environmental impact, businesses and products championing sustainability are likely to become de rigour in the years ahead.
2. Electric vehicles going mainstream
When nearly one in 10 new cars sold has been an electric vehicle (EV), there is no denying their growing popularity.
Besides generous government grants and sky-high fuel prices making EVs a more affordable option, heightened eco-consciousness and the allure of owning a Tesla have conspired to make EVs more desirable than ever.
And now that Singapore has made clear its intention to phase out cars with an internal combustion engine (ICE) by 2030, the result has been a proliferation of EV-related startups.
To alleviate range anxiety and charging concerns, homegrown startups such as Power Up Tech (P. UP) is offering a mobile EV charging service in Singapore, while MO Batteries provides battery-swapping services for electric motorcycles.
Meanwhile, PokeSpace allows users to pre-book charging stations and find a charging point with its app. In addition, Beep aims to simplify the EV charging process with the use of a single card.
As the infrastructure for EVs continues to grow, the adoption of EVs will likely accelerate in the years ahead, bringing us one step closer to our Green Plan targets.
3. Digital banks hit our shores
Two years after regulators gave the green light, digital banks finally arrived amidst great fanfare.
While questions remain on whether Singapore needs more banks and what purpose they would serve, it has not dampened our enthusiasm towards them.
Despite entering a crowded financial market, Trust Bank, a joint venture between Standard Chartered and FairPrice Group, has signed up over 300,000 customers in two months.
Meanwhile, GXS Bank, backed by Singtel and Grab, promises to tailor its product to support the needs of gig economy workers and small businesses needing microcredit.
From higher interest rates to free bags of rice, there is no doubt that the increased competition amongst banks has created a banking bonanza for us all.
Only time will tell if digital banks can diversify their offerings, disrupt an industry highly impervious to change and give incumbents a run for their money.
And hopefully, they will become a permanent part of our financial landscape, close the service gap, and promote financial inclusion for the underserved.
4. A tsunami of tech layoffs
Tech giants have enjoyed unprecedented growth during lockdowns. At some point, some have wondered if they have become too big to fail.
But faced with slowing revenue growth and worsening macroeconomic conditions, tech companies, as if operating in sync, have embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting exercise in the form of massive layoffs.
Having lost a quarter of its value in its dogged pursuit of the metaverse, Meta announced that it would lay off 11,000 employees, of which 50 jobs in Singapore are affected. Barely a week later, Elon Musk sensationally fired half of Twitter’s workforce.
Closer to home, Shopee cut jobs for the third time. Meanwhile, homegrown unicorn Carousell is also not immune. Announcing the decision in a blog post, founder and CEO Siu Rui Quek talks about “making the difficult decision” to let go of 110 employees or 10 per cent of its headcount.
Big tech or small, the culling of tech workers has been relentlessly swift, brutal, and downright inhumane at times.
However, the job market is not entirely bleak for retrenched workers. For a start, the labour market remains tight, and professions in technology and finance continue to be in demand.
Silicon Valley might be bleeding, but it is worth noting that many tech firms and startups in Singapore are still hiring. After all, who would not be keen to snap up talent one would otherwise have little chance of landing?
5. The crypto catastrophe
2022 has been a year of calamity for cryptocurrencies, to put it mildly.
Bitcoin, Ethereum, and a host of other digital currencies still lucky enough to be in business have shed close to 70 per cent of their value following the spectacular collapse of FTX.
While it is easy to attribute crypto’s current misery to the fallout from FTX, the industry was already in a state of flux before that.
Lest we forget, Terra-Luna imploded, leading to the fall of Three Arrows Capital and many other hedge funds that have lost a ton of capital and defaulted on loans. In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign of crypto’s volatility.
On the upside, following a year of crypto upheaval, governments are finally looking to regulate an industry that has long been a bastion for criminality.
But despite the dangers of investing in crypto, young Singaporeans, who like moths to a flame, are still more than keen to take the gamble with crypto.
Who knows, perhaps they will be more astute than our sovereign wealth fund Temasek, who had to write down $377 million in losses for their stake in FTX.
What’s next for 2023?
While we do not proclaim to be Nostradamus here at the Vulcan Post, here is what we predict might happen in the new year.
Despite the crypto bloodbath, Web3 will continue to advance, with blockchain technology moving away from cryptocurrencies.
This year alone, we are already seeing the increasing tokenisation of assets in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are being sold by every other celebrity. Hopefully, there will be more practical uses for these NFTs in everyday life since they do not come cheap.
Next, there are likely to be further developments in the metaverse, although not necessarily driven by Meta.
With Apple rumoured to debut its augmented and virtual reality headset in 2023, such devices are likely to swell in popularity and become increasingly common tools at work and play.
Lastly, the green economy will continue to take centre stage across various industries. As Singapore continues to explore ways to meet its Green Plan goals, the ability to balance performance with environmental sustainability will determine the success of many businesses.
And hopefully, there will be no black swan event to derail us from achieving humanity’s next milestone.
Featured Image Credit: Financial Times/SCMP/LTA