6 start-up trends expected to thrive in 2021 and beyond

The only way to find out if 2021 will be the year for your start-up venture is by keeping up with the emerging trends.

By U2B Staff 

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2020 did not come with too many positives, but one we cannot forget about is the extraordinary progress that has been made in digital transformation. It was a year that inspired innovation, especially for entrepreneurs keeping up with start-up trends looking for their next venture.

It’s been said many times before that a useful tool is one that solves problems and these tools can usually be turned into businesses if analysed correctly. COVID-19 may have forced some industries to pivot, but that does not take away from the fact that many others have managed to thrive. 

Start-ups have been the key drivers of economic growth and job creation for years. They are also often a catalyst for radical innovation. These young firms are dynamic and ever-changing, which means staying up to date with the industry is crucial for success in 2021. If you did not manage to launch your venture last year, 2021 might be your year. To get inspired, here are some start-up trends that will continue to thrive in 2021: 

Expansion of remote working

The remote working segment still has room for growth, especially with many organisations, big and small, switching to a remote working model in 2020. Zoom was merely a startup in 2011 before going public in 2019 and becoming a household name in 2020 due to COVID-19. 

Other large corporate tools such as Cisco’s Webex, Microsoft’s Teams, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Verizon’s BlueJeans are also providing video conferencing services and facilitating remote work all over the world. 


Other startups that have provided visual collaboration platforms that have enabled remote teams to create and share content, interact, track projects, facilitate training, and run online team building activities are Bluescape, Eloops, Figma, Slab, and Tandem. 

Online education

There is currently a huge opportunity in the market with schools, colleges, and universities conducting classes via video conferencing. Many of these institutions have actually been advised by parents and students to continue offering their curriculums online even after the vaccines are distributed. 

17zuoye, Yuanfudao, iTutorGroup, and Hujiang in China, Udacity, Coursera, Age of Learning, and Outschool in the U.S., and Byju’s in India are some of the top virtual learning platforms that have served learners and educators around the world in 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021 and beyond.

Contactless delivery

The use of robotics for delivery has been slow due to the lack of willingness across sectors. However, what once seemed hard to adapt to and expensive in comparison to humans, will soon become one of the most popular transitions in 2021. 

China is at the forefront of this transition, ramping up its deployment and the use of robots to deliver orders as a part of its efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19. “This project is to minimise the risk of potential infections caused by human contact and meet the needs of customers in this special time,” says the Chinese app, Meituan Dianping. 

US-based startups such as Manna, Starship Technologies, and Nuro are also attempting to tackle this problem in the Western world. Rightfully so as grocery e-commerce almost doubled in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down.


Virus testing and vaccine development 

COVID-19 caused a shakeup in the medical industry. Researchers all over the world have put many clinical trials on hold or have made the switch to virtual structures by performing consultations online and collecting data remotely. It currently looks like these remote practices might permanently alter pharmaceutical development altogether. 

2020 showed us the rapid development of COVID-19 test kits across the globe as well as the speedy development of vaccines by the US and UK-based pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna who have both developed mRNA vaccines. It is likely we will see more innovations throughout 2021 in regards to testing and vaccine development. 

Development of 5G infrastructure 

The demand for higher-speed internet and the shift toward well-connected homes, smart cities, and autonomous mobility have brought forward the advancement of internet technologies such as 5G and 6G. It is expected that later this year, we will see new infrastructures and utilities or the development of application updates from both larger organisations and up-and-coming startups. 

Australia rolled out 5G before the pandemic struck and many telcos are currently on track to do the same. Verizon announced a huge expansion of its 5G network in October 2020, which will reach more than 200 million users. Globally leading the charge is Ericsson. Today, there are more than 380 operators currently investing in 5G technology, with over 35 countries have already launched their services commercially. 

Startup Seadronix from South Korea is using 5G to help power autonomous ships and the network is currently enabling devices to work together more efficiently in real-time, helping vessels to travel unmanned. 5G and 6G technology will drive smart-city projects globally with its advantages, set to support the autonomous mobility sector in 2021. 

AI, robotics, IoT, and industrial automation

Top technology-providing companies enabling industry automation with AI and robotics integration include UBTech Robotics, Roobo and XYZ Robotics in China, CloudMinds, Bright Machines, Vicarious, Fetch Robotics, and Covariant in the US, Kindred Systems in Canada, and Preferred Networks in Japan. 

It is expected that in 2021, there will be a huge demand and rapid growth of AI, robotics, IoT and industrial automation technology. As manufacturing and supply chains return to normalcy and full operation, manpower shortages will become a challenge. Automation, with the help of AI, robotics, and the internet of things will play a major role in facilitating operations for these industries.