The Year in Tech: A Twenty Twenty-One of A Kind
Two years into the pandemic, and you have to admit, 2021 wasn't as bad as its preceding year, especially on the digital front.
Some may look back at the year that has been and see it as a form of follow-through for the digital transformation, the calculated pivots, and the strategic adaptation of businesses in various sectors that we witnessed back in 2020. So, before we bask in the fresh beginnings that the new year has to offer, let's travel back in time to spare a glance at the scenes in the tech world that unfolded in 2021 that shaped it to be the year of change.
Startups on the Rise
First, we have to hand it to the startup industry, which undeniably made some noise.
The Philippine tech ecosystem was seen as a potential market for the growing tech startup community, according to the Startup Ecosystem Report 2021 by Gobi-Core Philippine Fund, a joint venture between Gobi Partners and Core Capital.
Aside from that, local startups have made headlines with their respective heavyweight funding rounds. One that really caught the public's attention is digital financial solutions startup Mynt (Globe Fintech Innovations, Inc.), which raised $175 million in funding last January and over $300 million in funding just this November. The fintech startup behind the popular payment services app GCash is now the Philippines' only unicorn, valued at over $2 billion.
Another is Philippine-based social entertainment platform Kumu, which reportedly raised $100 million in a Series C investment in October. This funding round is said to have marked the "largest equity financing to date for a Filipino startup not founded as a subsidiary or spinoff of an established conglomerate."
There's also tech startup and e-commerce juggernaut Great Deals E-commerce Corp. (GDEC), which raised a total of $30 million in the second quarter of the year that boosted its private equity funding to $42 million.
Globally, we personally couldn't forget about Canva's latest funding round, where it raised $200 million and increased its valuation to $40 billion. The round made Canva one of the world's biggest privately-owned companies and valuable startups.
All in all, the number of unicorn startups almost doubled from the 500 recorded at the end of 2020.
Growth of Fintech
As consumer habits change, the public's reliance on digital tech accelerates, and the young and tech-savvy population grows, micropayments and e-wallets found a way to cement themselves in society. With the convenience it offers to Filipinos who remain 'unbanked' and those who already have bank accounts, it's not groundbreaking news that e-wallets quickly became popular at the height of the global health crisis, and it is until today. GCash, DragonPay, and InstaPay have seen tremendous growth over the past two years, while Singaporean ride-hailing app Grab showed a strategic move to go beyond ride-hailing and focus on developing its fintech side on top of its food delivery service.
In addition to e-wallets, the Philippines also welcomed digital banking last year. In 2020, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country's central monetary authority, issued a circular recognizing "digital banks" as a new bank category separate from existing bank categories. Fast forward to today, the government agency is on its way to achieving its target of digitalizing at least 50 percent of financial transactions and 70 percent of Filipinos owning financial accounts as it awarded licenses to six entities to operate as digital banks. The six aspirants granted with digital banking licenses are Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank), Tonik Bank, UNObank, Gotyme, Union Digital Bank, and Maya Bank.
Changes in Leadership
The previous year has also been somewhat clouded by high attrition rates from around the world, and it was then that business experts came up with a term to call the phenomenon: "The Great Resignation." While you might think that this unfortunate event only concerns middle managers and the staff they supervise, it actually also involves the reshuffling of top executives in major tech firms.
In February last year, Amazon's billionaire Jeff Bezos announced his plan to step down as CEO of the e-commerce giant he built from the ground up, and so he officially did in July as he handed over Amazon's keys to Andy Jassy, who was then the head of Amazon Web Services. Filling the position Jassy left at AWS is Tableau Software CEO Adam Selipsky, a familiar face at Amazon.
Before Bezos was officially stripped of his CEO title at Amazon, Intel CEO Bob Swan resigned and has former Intel executive Pat Gelsinger replace him. Prior to Gelsinger's appointment as Intel's new CEO, he served as CEO of VMware since 2012, but due to the demands of his new role with Intel, he later left the cloud computing tech company.
Another one is the recent resignation of Jack Dorsey as the long-serving CEO of Twitter, which he co-founded in 2006. Dorsey handed the reins to Twitter veteran Parag Agrawal, the company's longtime chief technology officer who helped in Twitter's A.I. and machine learning technology development, cryptocurrency initiatives, and migration to cloud servers.
Playing The Content Game Strong
Another big moment in the tech world was when tech-security company Cloudflare revealed that in 2021, Google and all of its properties were dethroned as the Internet's most popular domain and Facebook lost its crown as the most popular social media by none other than TikTok.
The Bytedance-owned app, which was originally a safe haven for the youth, used to receive backlash, but today, the platform claims that it now has 1 billion monthly active users across a broad range of demographics, with most using it as a new medium to tell their stories, offer authentic content, and engage with one another.
When Blockchain Meets Art and Gaming
Now, how could we forget about how 2021 has been a wild year for crypto?
There was all this hype for non-fungible tokens or NFTs (which used to be a buzzword among blockchain enthusiasts but have since evolved into a market for digital artwork and unique collectibles linked to the blockchain), play-to-earn crypto games (specifically Axie Infinity, which quickly gained popularity in the Philippines as an alternative source of income), the fun and friendly internet currency Dogecoin, and of course, the all-time-high price of Bitcoin.
Facebook's Fresh Face
In October, Facebook made it to the news for multiple reasons.
During the company's live-streamed video and augmented reality conference Facebook Connect 2021, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook's parent company will be changing its name to Meta as it shifts its focus to the "metaverse." The move received mixed reactions from Facebook users, but one event prior to the rebranding has received negative ones. Social media services ok, FaceboWhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus virtual reality apps experienced an outage that lasted almost six hours. Facebook said an error during routine maintenance on its network of data centers caused the outage, which was considered the worst outage since 2019.
There you have it, a quick glance at the year that has been for the tech world. A quick look at how the year of change unfolded. Like I said in an old year-end review, the events mentioned above are but a small part of the bigger picture. Yet, we can't deny that these things prove that the year wasn't so bad but rather a challenging one that helped us see how resilient and adaptive we really are because as it opened new opportunities and trends, we managed and we were able to keep up with it.
Now, as we face the new year ahead and take in more uncertainties that come with the fresh vastness of uncharted waters 2022 has to offer, I know it can be pretty terrifying, but we've been at it since the early days of the global health crisis, so what's stopping you now?