Four opportunities for tech startups in 2021

From edge computing to robotic deliveries, new opportunities are emerging for ambitious, cutting-edge startups.
27 November 2020

The delivery robots are coming. Source: Shutterstock

When it’s uncertain how even the rest of the year will play out, making predictions for 2021 might seem a little bold.

But while no one foresaw the world-changing events of this year, we can say with confidence that technology played a big part in helping business and society cope with and adapt to the many challenges.

The impact of covid-19 has catalyzed a whole host of technological changes and initiatives that were already on the cards, and this has created widening market opportunities for boundary-pushing startups.

The following are several trends and opportunities that have exploded in 2020 and will continue to thrive into 2021, proving fertile ground for startups to develop.

Edge computing

Edge computing, which is the concept of processing and analyzing data in servers closer to the applications they serve, is growing in popularity and opening new markets for established telecom providers, semiconductor and IoT start-ups, and new software ecosystems.

With 5G networking technology continuing to roll out in 2021, the power of edge computing is set to see another upgrade, enabling new real-time applications in video processing and analytics, self-driving cars, robotics, and AI, among many others.

“As data becomes increasingly more valuable to overall business success and decision making, businesses are looking to gain a legitimate and measurable advantage over their competition by moving data processing closer to the edge,” VoltDB’s CPO, Dheeraj Remella, told TechHQ previously.

“Hundreds of thousands of IoT devices will be located throughout warehouses, trucking fleets, production plants, and more, to generate, capture and act on data. The ability to process, analyze and act on this information in real-time has the potential to transform these industries overnight,” said Remella.

The vast IT ecosystem created by edge computing and demand from enterprise across industries will provide ample room for startups to emerge.


The telehealth industry saw demand rise incredibly this year as Covid-19 infected million worldwide. Telehealth appointments, of course, are ideal for a pandemic: patients can get an informed opinion on their symptoms, and receive a referral for a diagnostic test without having to physically go into an office and endanger others.

In fact, the global telehealth/telemedicine market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 37.7% to reach US$191.7 billion by 2025 from an estimated US$38.7 billion in 2020. The key factors driving the growth of this market according to Research and Markets include the need to expand healthcare access, the growing prevalence of chronic diseases and conditions, a shortage of physicians, advancements in telecommunications, government support and raising awareness, and rising technology adoption in the wake of Covid-19.

The Asia Pacific is projected to register the highest growth during the forecast period. This large share can be attributed to factors such as the rising prevalence of chronic conditions, the need to reduce healthcare expenditure, increasing overall and geriatric population.

Telehealth startups are now disrupting the healthcare industry, which had been slow to embrace the technology, enabling anyone with an internet connection, in any part of the world, access to healthcare.

Robotic deliveries

A surge in e-commerce demand, coupled with the need to reduce contact, has once again put fire into the already competitive last-mile delivery sector, and the use of autonomous vehicles and robotics is largely seen as the next step.

China has been one of the first countries to ramp up deployment and use of robots to deliver orders to slow the spread of Covid-19, but we’ve seen continued, controlled trials taking place in other parts of the world, including across campuses in the UK and US.

Startups such as Manna, Starship Technologies, and Nuro are also attempting to tackle this problem in the Western world. Large retailers are taking note; Nuro’s partnership with Kroger helped push their R2 robot forward, having started tests in Arizona in 2018.

Robotic deliveries have yet to go mainstream. Startups that can reduce the cost of the technology and overcome remaining challenges could still take ground, even against the most well-funded players.


The pandemic has forced major changes in education at every level, from early years to adult learning and career development. It has accelerated the adoption of digital technology in education with global EdTech investment on track to grow by 15% in 2020, a predicted US$7.6 billion.

At its peak in mid-April, the virus caused nationwide school closure in 190 countries, impacting 90% of total enrolled students, almost 1.6 billion people globally.

While the world continues to battle the Covid-19 outbreak, EdTech startups can expect significant growth as more people turn to digital education and solutions.

International organizations like UNESCO also have their own list which increases the reach of these platforms. The current pandemic has accelerated the transformation of education and technology startups in this sector have grown in-line, and that means that edtech is here to stay and the way students learn will never be the same.