As 2019 draws a close, let’s review these predictions: how many did we get right? Which ones did we get terribly wrong? And which are the ones that are too hard to tell?
As we did last time, we highlight those we predicted accurately in green, those we got wrong in red, and those which are not clear cut in blue.
1. Go-Jek’s traction outside Indonesia slow
As we had expected, the traction is slow. The company has been denied operating license twice in the Philippines; its Vietnam operations saw the departure of key executives, twice; in Singapore, it was struggling to catch up with market share.
Facing a strong and (more) localised competitor, GoJek needs a radically different tactic to win market (share). Its new international team might have a better idea for next year.
2. Payment remains fragmented, with central banks exercising more control over settlement
The payment landscape in Indonesia is ever-evolving – and now it seems the four are leading the race: Lippo-initiated OVO, LinkAja launched by a coalition of SOEs, Go-Jek’s GoPay, and Emtek-Ant Financial Joint Venture Dana.
As the year draws to a close, there are strong rumours of OVO (now with Grab as biggest shareholder) acquiring Emtek’s shares of Dana, effectively merging the two companies.
We will issue a different prediction for 2020. You can make reference to an article our Chinese speaking colleagues wrote in July this year.
On Central Banks, Singapore’s PayNow is surely gaining traction – similar settlement networks are being promoted in other parts of the region.
3. Ecommerce giants, including Tokopedia, move more aggressively offline for growth
Within a month after the prediction, Warung Pintar, an offline stall network in Indonesia, raised US$27 million. Tokopedia and Bukalapak also pushed aggressively offline, as predicted.
There are other initiatives by big groups, local and foreign, to reach out to the Warung and offline retail. With the capital sentiment changing towards the end of the year, some of these initiatives will shift too.
4. More money in revamping the region’s logistics network
Well, the large funding rounds of Ritase and Waresix are already telling, not to mention the highly (some say over) valued logistics startups in Vietnam and Thailand that have all closed new rounds this year.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based Lalamove is progressing well in Southeast Asia.
5. Chinese cross-border ecommerce competition intensifies
We actually made this prediction for 2018, but it somehow did not materialize, at least not to the extent we had expected. Friends who work in customs clearance told us that the volume was growing – thanks largely to Shopee and Lazada – but not in a significant manner that would excite them.
The momentum is building up this year, although we do not yet see brands and large independent sellers make big inroads. A few of them are actively studying the market, though.
On the other hand, there is a big wave of Chinese-backed social ecommerce companies starting in different parts of Southeast Asia and quickly gaining initial traction. Whether that traction can be sustained is a question mark – though the potential of social ecommerce is quite obvious.
6. Fintech still growing – survival of the fittest, not the fastest
We predicted the payday loan bubble in Southeast Asia would burst in 2018 – and that’s exactly what happened in the 2nd half of the year.
At least in Indonesia and the Philippines, we see some top fintech lenders disappear. In Singapore, where there are often many companies fighting for the same sub-segment, some notable companies also went quite quiet.
However, with the credit gap in the region still large and apparent, the opportunity is there. We now start to see a diverse group of fintech players targeting different communities. Kredivo’s recent US$90m series C and Akulaku’s investment round led by Ant Financial earlier this year are both demonstrations of investor confidence in this sector, in this region.
Momentum Works has hosted a successful China-Indonesia Fintech Summit in Shanghai, and those of you who are interested in knowing in-depth about fintech in Indonesia can read the Momentum Works Fintech Indonesia Report 2019.
As the year end approaches, illegal players from China are less aggressive in Vietnam and the Philippines, but many are now bullish about India.
7. Many AI and robo-advisory startups in Singapore fail, and the country finds a better niche
I think all of you know what is happening with B2B robo-advisors, and the remaining B2C ones need to ramp up their AUM quickly to make themselves a good acquisition target.
Grab’s foray into wealth management, planned for next year, could disrupt this sector, if executed well, of course.
While there is a debate on whether Trax, the newly minted unicorn, is a Singapore company, the good news is that some AI companies have persevered and broke even.
8. VCs with different country backgrounds are finally effectively talking to each other; and nobody talks about Series B crunch anymore
This is happening, though not yet to the extent we had expected.
9. FA for VC investments as an industry gains traction
We are seeing a few boutique ‘investment banks’ appear in the market, as predicted. Chinese players – like China Renaissance and Taihe Capital – also moved to work on some of the projects from the region.
For new players, it takes time and good cases to build brand and trust in this market, though.
10. E-scooter fails to take off in the region
I do not think anyone would argue about this point – especially with Singapore’s recent de facto ban of e-scooters. However, players are finding ways to survive. Beam and Neuron are both focusing on ANZ, which is the right (and potentially rewarding) strategy.
Not bad – we got most right, making some improvement from last year.
We enjoy the process of coming out with predictions – that put the team together and debate on what are the most interesting trends, opportunities, and fads in the market.
We also hope that this becomes a starting point to a healthy, in-depth and smart debate amongst our friends and other industry practitioners.
Join us by telling us your thoughts!