Innovation happens in context & all at once. Plus SA Tech Trends for 2021.
Hello there, welcome to issue #27 & the last one for the year. A bit different, this is coming out on a Friday rather than a Monday.
I was contemplating doing a reflective piece like Spotify’s wrapped. Then, I thought maybe I should do a predictive piece on what we can expect in 2021, what trends are happening in the market that are relevant for South Africa, plus something that has been on my mind; why innovation happens in context & all at once.
I’ll be back next year, starting with an interview I did with Alexandria Claire Procter, the Founder & CEO of DigsConnect, one of South Africa’s fastest-growing startups.
To start, If I knew what the future held, I would not be writing this. Though I have chosen to dedicate my time to writing about technology, I might as well give predicting the future a try. I promise to be careful with my opinions. What I say does not constitute advice of any kind.
Innovation happens in context & all at once.
I believe that innovation happens in context & all at once. What do I mean by this? Context according to Wikipedia refers to objects or entities which surround a focal event. ‘Context is "a frame that surrounds the event and provides resources for its appropriate interpretation”. It is thus a relative concept, only definable with respect to some focal event within a frame, not independently of that frame.’
Okay, what does that mean? it means innovation is timeboxed around a certain focal event. For instance, most of the innovation around how railway roads are built was created around the same time in the 1800s. Cars still run on gasoline/petrol the same way as 100 years ago. Computers are still screens & keyboards. How do we explain not how, but why innovation happens.
Disruptive innovation changes the way we consume & interact with things, but it’s sustaining innovation that allows for the ubiquity of consumption. This is where the context of innovation matters. Most of the top oil companies in the world (not the sovereigns) trace their origins to The Standard Oil company, why? The top two car companies in the world (barring Tesla) were both founded in 1937. Puma & Adidas were founded a year apart, why? Over the years these bursts of innovation, both bits & atoms have been timeboxed to a particular year &/or a particular era. Fast forward to the 2010s the same thing happened:
- Why was 2009-2013 a good period to start a new payment company?
- Why was 2009-2011 a good period to create a plant-based meat company (Beyond meat & Impossible foods)?
- Why was 2012-2013 good years for new self-driving car companies?
- Why was 2014-2015 a good period to start a new bank?
- Why was 2015-2017 a good period to start a new insurance company?
If innovation happens all at once in a time box manner, what is the context around that? The answer to that is convoluted & nuanced & can’t be pinned to one particular thing. The smartphone might have been the focal event for most innovation in the 2010s & everyone was focused on that.
Communication played a role in innovation happening at once. The world is more connected than ever before. The internet has enhanced the connective tissue of humans (not in that sense, but I’m sure you understand what I mean). This too makes the internet a focal event.
So if we know innovation happens in context around a focal event. What’s the next event? Artificial Intelligence? 5G? These are the questions we should be asking yourself about the future. It’s not important to understand the context around innovation but it is important to understand the focal event.
SA Tech Trends 2021
With that in mind, predictions for 2021. Here’s a tweet by Stone Atwine, the CEO of Borderless Fintech app, Eversend:
These are all plausible trends within FinTech. So I won’t be making any FinTech trends, Thanks Stone.
Trend #1: Omnichannel Healthcare.
Covid has been a catalyst for some things & an accelerant for most things, more so healthcare & e-commerce. HealthTech startups will be omnichannel healthcare providers offering both online & offline services.
Trend #2: B2B Mental Wellness.
The growth in Calm.com’s B2B revenue has shown the increased need for mental wellness in employee benefits.
Trend #3: Blended learning.
This will happen because of a push from the government. The current educational system is not future proof & leaves most behind.
Trend #4: Interactive Videos & Gamification.
Children pick up a lot from watching Ryan & CKN toys on YouTube. Interactive videos help increase proficiency in digital literacy & communication. More videos & games for children in 2021.
Trend #5: Microschooling
With Covid restricting the number of learners that can be in a classroom & parents adopting a flexible learning approach for their children. That means micro-schools are on the rise for early childhood development.
Safety & Security
Trend #6: Citizen for (South) Africa
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the World. Safety & Security is crucial. The lack of safety & security, especially for women is a concerning issue that should be addressed. Technology can help. In the US an app called Citizen has been trying to address safety by democratizing access to dispatch information. A Citizen for (South) Africa isn’t far fetched.
Trend #7: Cross-Border Optimization
Cross border e-commerce will be crucial for up & coming commerce companies as they look to scale their brands outside the borders of South Africa. This will create a gap for Administration as a Service startups for a seamless exporting & compliance experience.
Trend #8: Social Commerce & Hyper-local delivery
Social commerce exists in South Africa in self-organised groups (Stokvels). The rise of Chinese social commerce giant, Pinduoduo has given social commerce a new meaning. The nature of the South African market has some semblance of existing infrastructure that could make a Pinduoduo clone work.
Trend #9: Procurement
Government corruption in South Africa is beyond concerning. A clear problem, but a fix will have not come from the government. This goes for corruption within corporates as well. Enterprise procurement will be a space to watch in 2021.
Trend #10: Unbundling Mortgages
Banks still have a monopoly on mortgage origination. Opendoor just completed a listing via a SPAC. Incumbent banks have faced pressure from new challengers. Mortgages are still an undisrupted market in SA.
Trend #11: Real Estate Investment Platform
Commercial real estate as an asset class has come under pressure due to COVID & exposure to both malls & office space. REITs are not going away, but access to direct investment for individuals at the earlier stages of the project will happen.
Those are my predictions for 2021.
Take care, have a good break.