Telenor Group has witnessed mobile connectivity powering growth in Asia’s dynamic startup scene. Operating in markets with booming startup scenes, Telenor Group last week surveyed technology buffs to better understand key startup trends for 2017 and the challenges and views of entrepreneurs in Asia. The survey was conducted over Facebook and LinkedIn with 215 respondents aged 15 to over 55 years old from Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and other Asian countries.
“The inaugural Digital Winners Asia event which took place in Myanmar last month not only saw some of the best startups from across our six Asian markets pitching for new-market expansion funding, but also provided a glimpse into the Asian entrepreneurial mentality,” said Johanna Staaf, Director of New Ventures, Telenor Group. “We wanted to further enhance our understanding by reaching out to Asia’s budding entrepreneurs; what gets them out of bed in the morning, what are their focus areas, and where we might see some exciting new disruptors in the next year.”
Robotics to take center stage in 2017
Respondents were asked to share their views on the development of the 2017 Asia startup landscape and which sectors would be the most ready for disruption in 2017. Nearly half of all respondents chose robotics as the sector most ready for disruption in 2017. With the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide to increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019 and automation becoming increasingly important across industries, robotics would indeed be a priority focus for businesses in 2017.
A distant second, 20% of respondents chose consumer banking, 14% believe that healthcare will experience the most disruption in 2017, 12% see real estate as ripe for disruption, while 9% predict that the air travel industry will experience disruption in 2017.
Will 2017 be the year of the self-driving car?
On the technology front, autonomous vehicles were crowned as the most disruptive technology of 2016 by about 40% of respondents, with nearly the same amount (37%) picking it as 2017’s most likely disruptive tech trend. With Asia leading the world in the race towards fully autonomous vehicles by setting milestones like the launch of the world’s first self-driving taxis in Singapore this August, 2017 might just be the year we see self-driving cars becoming the norm.
 The majority (62%) of respondents fell in the 18 – 34 year old category
Chart 1: Most Disruptive Technology of 2016
|Ranking||Technology||Percentage of respondents||Key Developments in 2016|
|#1||Autonomous vehicles||40%||World’s first self-driving taxi debuts in Singapore in August 2016|
|#2||Fintech||23%||Over US$10.5 billion has been invested in fintech as of Sep 2016, about US$2 billion more than in Europe and the US combined|
|#3||Augmented reality||20%||Pokémon Go brought Augmented Reality to the attention of the whole world, setting a record for 50 million downloads on Android in the first 19 days of its release. The next-fastest app to hit that record was ColorSwatch in 77 days.|
|#4||Virtual reality||9%||The launch in 2016 of consumer-ready hardware (HTC Vive, Sony VR and upgraded Oculus Rift) and applications that finally enabled users to leverage the full scope of virtual reality brought VR into the mainstream.|
|#5||Medtech||8%||The Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) was named Official Liaison member of the Asian Harmonization Working Party (AHWP), and will represent medtech companies and startups in promoting the harmonization of medical device regulations in Asia|
Chart 2: Most Disruptive Technology of 2017
|Ranking||Technology||Percentage of respondents||Why it’s Hot|
|#1||Autonomous vehicles||37%||Major partnerships and investments continue to emerge with the latest being Samsung Electronics’ acquisition of car tech company Harman while Japan is preparing driverless cars and taxis for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo|
|#2||Connected devices||19%||IoT spending in APAC will reach S$79 billion by 2020|
|#3||Enterprise mobile apps||19%||The enterprise mobile app market will reach almost US$74 billion in 2016 and grow to US$128bn by 2022, driven by the increasing mobile workforce (1.45bn in 2016 to 1.87bn in 2022)|
|#4||New services and applications using bitcoins and blockchain tech||13%||Banks and governments across Asia are exploring blockchain applications including the region’s first country-wide pilot in Singapore, and ICICI Bank executing India’s first transaction on blockchain.|
|#5||Mobile medical tech||12%||The APAC med-tech market is expected to rise to from about US$88 billion in 2015 to US$133 billion in 2020|
Understanding how Asian entrepreneurs think
To gauge the interests and personalities of the survey respondents, each person was assigned the type of startup they were most likely to create in 2017, based on pattern of their responses. 38% of respondents were found to be the most likely to create an IoT startup in 2017, significantly outnumbering the number who would establish medtech startups (22%), on-demand startups (14%), enterprise startups (11%) and fintech startups (10%). With a potential market of 34 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet by 2020, and nearly US$6 trillion to be spent over the next five years, it appears Asia’s entrepreneurs are well aware of the potential opportunities offered by the Internet-of-Things.
In addition to these 2017 startup trend insights, the survey findings also hint at what Asian entrepreneurs think it takes to succeed in the tough startup world. More than a third of respondents (36%) believe that cybersecurity and data privacy is their number one priority, and keeping their customers’ data safe and secure is the biggest challenge facing Asian startups. One in 4 also admitted that the lack of business management skills and experience is another major obstacle, and having access to expert guidance would be an important growth factor. Another 16% say they are hampered by public policy frameworks and environments that are not conducive to startups, while 14% say that sustained funding across all stages of startup development would be important. Fewer than 1 in 10 were seen as were concerned with the challenge of expanding into other markets in the region.
The survey also found that business growth and profit are not the only primary motivators, with 29.3% of respondents stating that helping others gives them a sense of worth and purpose. From a personal perspective, 35% said that they are most interested in augmented and virtual reality, followed closely by artificial intelligence (33%).