And without realising it, we’ve hit the tail end of 2018. It’s been an interesting year with plenty of developments—many of which we saw coming, and even more that we never expected would take place.
Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen cryptocurrency become the poster child for blockchain technology, Grab become an absolute powerhouse in Southeast Asia, and smartphone cameras become so insanely powerful.
Moving forward into the new year, we’re expecting even more interesting things to happen and amaze us, and thus, we thought we’d take a stab at predicting the future and list down some of the things we expect to happen within the next year, specifically in the field of startups and entrepreneurship in Malaysia and this region.
Some of these predictions are already en route to being fulfilled, while some of them are more speculation than anything else, but all of them no doubt fill us with suspense and anticipation for what’s to come as we prepare to welcome 2019.
1. Malaysia To Go Bigger On E-Wallets
This one isn’t so much of a prediction so much as it is a foregone conclusion. In 2018, the e-wallet scene in Malaysia saw the influx of a multitude of players—some by giant household names, some completely new faces—and by Q3, around 36 different options available to Malaysians.
In 2019, we predict demand for the mighty e-wallet to go even stronger, but for the number of options in the market to experience a large drop.
As the market makes its way past a saturation point, we fully expect that the best e-wallets (read: most adopted) will remain relevant, while the rest will just dwindle into obscurity.
To be more specific, we anticipate that there will be space in the ecosystem for three or four major names to lead the market, and we expect the ones to end up on top to already by now have a commanding market share going into the new year. No points for guessing who these currently are.
2. A.I. To Enter The Mainstream
As the world becomes more automated, our reliance on machine learning will continue to skyrocket. All this is already being demonstrated by the widespread availability of things like smart homes, smart cars, and drone delivery services.
Going into 2019, we expect development and AI adoption to go even harder than what we’ve already seen. For example, we predict banks to make mainstream the use of robot advisors, not just to tell you what loan or investment options you have available, but to tell you how to best maximise your finances and even investments for the long term.
We feel that by the end of 2019, artificially intelligent machines will also have made headway as a standard for jobs and hiring, in healthcare with disease prediction, and perhaps even in ride-hailing. Should humans be worried or not?
3. Smaller Influencers Lead The Way
This prediction follows the ongoing trend of businesses leveraging on the smaller fry to get their marketing messages out. In Southeast Asia at least, this trend has entered the mainstream and has seen individuals with just over 1,000 followers get contracted for marketing campaigns on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
The idea behind using these so-called “micro-influencers” is to get the advantage of speed and cost compared to influencers with larger follower counts and thus less agile activation tendencies.
In 2019, we expect that businesses will double down on individuals with smaller follower counts and use even those with just over 200 loyal followers to disseminate their marketing messages. Forget micro-influencers, we’re now entering the age of the nano-influencer.
4. One Size Fits All
In this day and age, information and the quality of being interconnected are as valuable as gold and silver, and large businesses recognise this. While it might not be immediately obvious (it will, eventually), large corporations today want to know about and have a hand in everything we do.
In Malaysia, we already have Grab with their fingers stuck into so many verticals—transport, food, payments—and soon, we fully expect them to eventually expand into things like micro-financing and healthcare.
A screenshot of some of the services offered by GoJek and AliPay, in Indonesia and China, respectively.
In 2019, we expect other companies to attempt to follow suit, especially companies such as telcos, other e-wallet providers, and other well-funded tech companies with deep information pockets. Why? Because it seems only logical for companies that deal in the exchange of information to want to tighten their grasps even more.
That said, we don’t expect there to be too many success stories, as trying to create a single-app ecosystem requires a large amount of financial resources, labour, and the navigation of regulatory issues.
5. Blockchain To Go Strong
The conversation surrounding blockchain should continue to go strong in 2019.
Sure, the noise surrounding crypto may have died down considerably since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies plunged in value this year, but don’t be so quick to write-off the technology behind the hype.
If you delve deeper into the various blockchain communities across the web, you’ll be pleasantly greeted with healthy chatter and discussions regarding the development of various blockchain-related tech. Although still relatively complex for newcomers to get into, we expect there to be many more developments in this sector throughout 2019, simply due to its huge potential to disrupt industries from gaming, to healthcare, to insurance, to anti-counterfeit measures.
Very likely, we expect to see an increased number of conferences, talks, and events that cater to interested parties, be they consumers, developers, or investors, and even more boldly, we predict there to be more regulatory freedom afforded to this sector from the side of the government.
6. The Rise Of E-Scooter Sharing?
While we’re not going to make calls on whether or not it’ll end up being a success, we predict that 2019 will see another sharing service try and breakthrough to mainstream consciousness.
Looking back over the past year, we’ve seen car-sharing and bike-sharing services hit varying levels of success in different markets across the globe, and in 2019, we heavily expect e-scooters to become a much talked-about-topic.
In more mature markets such as the USA and New Zealand, e-scooters have experienced warm receptions, with many praising its ability to help people save on transportation costs and reduce the overall carbon footprint.
Although we definitely expect there to be movement in the Malaysian market, we do have concerns regarding the viability of the usage of e-scooters on Malaysian sidewalks and how the general public will use and treat such expensive equipment when no one is looking.
7. More Investors To Call Malaysia Home
One encouraging development for Malaysian entrepreneurs over this past year was a healthy influx of investors and VCs into the ecosystem. Just to throw out a few names, Malaysia saw names like 3B Ventures, SunSEA Capital, and Golden Gate Ventures arrive under a banner of hope for Malaysia’s potential as a hotbed for fresh tech entrepreneurial ideas.
SunSEA Capital arrived on Malaysian shores in July this year / Image Credit: SunSEA Capital
This marked increase in investors is most probably a result of movement by international industrial players to the SEA region, all caused by the recently high trade tensions between China and the USA. With more trade activity going on here and around us, it’s easy to see why investors like Malaysia as their next port of call.
All this coupled with our governments dedicated efforts to spur on Industry 4.0, 2019 should see even more investor money entering our gates, and while we can’t give concrete numbers, we like Malaysia’s prospects as far as venture capital money is concerned.
8. E-Commerce Will Start Becoming Instantaneous
Reports have shown that the period people are willing to wait for e-commerce deliveries are continuously dropping, with increasingly faster delivery speeds a playing a huge factor (thanks, Amazon Prime).
In Malaysia, we already have a good number of smaller up-and-coming delivery services touting incredibly fast delivery times, and because of this, we expect same day deliveries to become more widespread in 2019.
With so many businesses starting to have online presences (thus making the market extremely competitive), it wouldn’t be absurd to start seeing products delivered to your doorstep just hours after clicking on the checkout button.