Every year has some defining moments, and this year so far has contained so many paradigm-shifting events that marked 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of headlines in the past few months, and it's no exaggeration to say that it has also played a massive role in threatening the very survival of startups and companies.
With the end of the year, we've rounded up the biggest moments that hit the headlines of 2020:
The Virtual Telco license was suspended by IMDA and later reintroduced
Photo credit: Zero SG
Zero Mobile was launched in 2017 and is Singapore's second virtual cellular company after Circles.Life.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) suspended its license in March because "outstanding billing disputes were not dealt with". IMDA has also blacklisted Zero SG and its directors.
Glenn Mohammed, CEO of Zero SG, said they were surprised when IMDA "unilaterally and without notice" suspended its license over 12 customer complaints.
According to Zero SG, the telecommunications company has been working to secure additional investments, reorganize its organization and restart its service in conjunction with a system upgrade with partners in Singapore.
These changes were seen as "critical" to the project as they would have resulted in better pricing, connectivity and fewer operational issues. ultimately for the benefit of the consumer.
During the negotiation and implementation of these changes, the sudden suspension of the license by IMDA “endangered” their project. Negotiations were interrupted, the investment failed and its reputation was damaged.
While the Company believes IMDA's response was "excessive," they respected IMDA's decision and apologized for taking longer than it had to resolve these complaints.
Zero Mobile's operating license was later restored.
Outputs: Esprit, Bakerzin, Robinsons, Topshop, STA Travel, Sportslink
Photo credit: Bakerzin / NTU
Fashion retailer Esprit closed all 56 stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau in June. It also ceased business in China.
According to InsideRetail Asia, Esprit has already faced a sharp and sustained decline in sales for the past nine months, leading to its closings, and Covid-19 only made its situation worse.
In Asia, store sales fell by 48.7 percent within nine months and continued to decline to 61.3 percent from March 2020.
UK fashion retailers Topshop and Topman closed their last Singapore store at VivoCity in September to focus on their omnichannel retail strategy as the number of visitors to shopping malls soared.
In addition, the domestic cafe chain Bakerzin closed all five branches and marked its exit in Singapore last month.
It went into liquidation and owed more than S $ 41 million to its creditors, of which S $ 40 million was owed to the parent company, which had dug deep into its pockets to support the chain's sluggish business.
Pacific United Holdings decided to pull the plug on Bakerzin after placing his hopes on this year's Mooncake sales, which were "well below expectations" due to Covid-19.
Also owed to the creditors is Robinsons, who has left Singapore for good after losses in recent years. According to The Straits Times, Robinsons owes 442 creditors at least S $ 31.7 million.
Sportslink was also closed after debts accumulated with a "significant number" of creditors.
In the meantime, STA Travel ceased operations after the parent company in Switzerland filed for bankruptcy. The company's assets and liabilities as of September 10th showed that it owed S $ 439,000 to former employees.
In addition to employees, up to 682 customers listed as creditors are owed a total of S $ 635,000.
Sheng Shiong and Zoom: Founders saw their fortunes grow
Lim brothers of Sheng Siong and Eric Yuan / Photo credit: AsiaOne / Axios
Sheng Siong sells everything from seafood and vegetables to frozen foods through its supermarket chain.
When Covid-19 first broke out, many Singaporeans flocked to supermarkets to store groceries and household items, fearing that supplies might run out soon.
As a result, Sheng Siong's shares rose to a record high on April 15, up over 30 percent since the March 19 low.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the family's net worth, mainly owned by CEO Lim Hock Chee and his two brothers, rose to $ 1.2 billion (S $ 1.61 billion).
Before that, Lim was among the 50 richest in Singapore, and his net worth increased gradually every year – from S $ 345 million in 2012 to S $ 870 million in 2019.
Eric Yuan, CEO and founder of Zoom, which is currently valued at $ 18.9 billion, also saw his net worth jump 77 percent to $ 7.8 billion in just two months.
The US company, best known for its video conferencing solution, recorded over 2.2 million new monthly users in the first two months of this year.
After the Covid-19 outbreak, many people had to work from home or remotely and used Zoom to connect them with colleagues and clients on a daily basis, which led to a surge in popularity.
This led Eric to enter the top 200 richest in the world. Before 2020, it wasn't even on the list. However, it has since fallen to 293rd on the same list.
Zoom now has a market cap value of $ 122 billion, down from $ 18.8 billion in 2019.
Entertainment venues ordered to close, pilot program reopening announced
Photo credit: Marquee Singapore
In March, entertainment venues covering bars, nightclubs, discos, cinemas, theaters, and karaoke outlets were closed with uncertain reopening plans.
Cinemas have since reopened from July 13th, but bars, clubs, karaoke outlets, and other entertainment outlets have still not been allowed to reopen.
Some have decided to either pan or end after experiencing losses during the pandemic.
While the government has since announced a three-month pilot program allowing it to reopen, many are concerned about the impact of strict Covid-19 rules – including mandatory pre-event testing – on costs.
Pubs and bars will have a two-month trial from December, while the pilot for karaoke lounges and nightclubs will start in January and last for three months.
Those who started the pilot include Cash Studio Family Karaoke, HaveFun Karaoke, and K. Star Karaoke.
Apparently, KTV chain Teo Heng is not applying for the program as the costs associated with reopening would likely weigh on their businesses and deplete their resources faster.
A series of data breaches
Photo credit: Agoda / KrAsia / Slashgear / Reuters
This year there has been one data breach after another. Several companies such as Shopback, Redoorz, Redmart and Razer were involved.
As early as September, the online cashback platform ShopBack was made aware of the "unauthorized access" to its systems with the personal data of customers and an investigation was initiated.
At around the same time, hospitality startup RedDoorz also suffered a breach of one of its IT databases.
In a statement, she assured that up to this point in time no sensitive financial information such as customer credit cards or passwords had been compromised "to the best of my knowledge".
That same month, data from 100,000 Razer customers around the world was also exposed to the public due to a misconfigured server.
The data breach was discovered by cybersecurity advisor Volodymyr Diachenko, who said the server had been misconfigured for public access since Aug. 18. He immediately notified the company through his support channel.
However, his message was processed by non-technical support managers for more than three weeks until the data was protected from public access.
Razer has not confirmed the number of affected customers or issued a statement.
In November, Eatigo and RedMart suffered two serious data breaches over the same weekend.
Data from 2.8 million accounts of the restaurant reservation platform Eatigo – including 400,000 users in Singapore – were offered for sale in an online forum.
Additional information such as encrypted passwords and, in some cases, credit card numbers for 1.1 million RedMart user accounts were also advertised.
Chinese tech giants are setting up regional bases here
Photo credit: Getty and Caixinglobal
ByteDance, the parent company of the viral video sharing app TikTok, has rented a whopping 60,000 square feet in One Raffles Quay.
According to private sources, they plan to make Singapore a stepping stone to the rest of Asia as part of its global expansion.
ByteDance is already present here in Singapore, as the Singapore team was set up in a WeWork coworking office in December 2018.
In addition, they have been actively recruited for a number of positions in Singapore on the career pages of ByteDance and TikTok.
In addition, WeChat owner Tencent Holdings has selected a JustCo co-working space with 200 seats in the OCBC Center East on Raffles Place for its first office in Singapore.
The space adds up to 10,000 square meters or 929 square meters.
On the flip side, Alibaba bought a 50 percent stake in Shenton Way's AXA Tower worth S $ 1.68 billion (US $ 1.2 billion).
Alibaba and Perennial Real Estate Holding Ltd. will then set up a joint venture to renovate the 50-story building.
"Singapore is an important market for Alibaba," said a company spokesman.
"This investment will help meet our planned business needs across Alibaba's digital economy as we continue to strengthen operations in Singapore."
SIA burns half of its money
Photo credit: Atlas Logistics Network
Airlines continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has paralyzed air travel.
In August, Singapore Airlines was reported to have spent half of the S $ 8.8 billion it raised through its rights issues.
Of the total, S $ 2 billion was used to repay a bridging loan that was taken out to bail out the company from March to June, until the proceeds of the rights issue were received in early June.
Another S $ 500 million was used to repay SIA's 10-year bonds.
The remaining S $ 1.9 billion was used to refund tickets and repay funds previously drawn under certain lines of credit.
To cut costs, the Singaporean airline cut salaries and put staff on unpaid vacation as it is under 10 percent busy.
SIA posted a loss of $ 1.85 billion in the first half as the pandemic wiped out passenger traffic.
In response, SIA started guided tours of dining and training centers on the plane.
Within half an hour, all slots for the two-day run on October 24th and 25th for lunch on board the largest A380 aircraft were sold out and there was a waiting list.
At the training courses in the training center, more than 6,800 bookings and registrations were closed after nine hours due to the "overwhelming demand".
Founder Bak Kut Teh issued an open plea and was then convicted
Photo credit: Founder BKT Facebook page
The local Bak-Kut chain first made headlines in July when its second-generation owner, Nigel Chua, made an open plea for social media.
He called for public support to save his floundering Covid-affected business, which he said was in imminent danger of being closed "if we don't turn around in the next two months".
In response, internet users criticized him and rumors began to circulate about his apparently enormous personal wealth.
He is said to have driven a sports car and stayed on property wearing a luxury Audemars Piguet watch.
In contrast, Nigel told the media that his AP watch was used, that he lives in a five-room HDB apartment and drives "a Japanese car," a Toyota Vellfire that he also bought used.
It was re-examined when a previous article in the Straits Times reported that the brand was opening a store in Chengdu, China.
Given the company's current struggles, this put internet users in doubt.
A founder spokesman later stated in a statement that the Chengdu branch is a franchise branch that is independently financed and managed by founder Bak Kut Teh Singapore.
Tesla launches its own charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, Hyundai is building an electric car hub
Image credit: Kyodo
Earlier this month, it was reported that US electric vehicle maker Tesla is planning to set up its own EV charging system here.
Tesla hired a charging manager on its careers page, which points to the establishment of Tesla's own EV charging infrastructure in Singapore.
The job ad details that the role's primary function is to be responsible for "the strategic planning, execution and management of Tesla charging systems across Singapore."
In addition to the role of the charging manager, Tesla is hiring other functions in Singapore, including a branch manager, a field service technician and a vehicle service technician.
In addition, the South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor will build an electric vehicle production facility on Bulim Avenue in Jurong, which is scheduled to go into operation by 2022.
According to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, it is an investment of almost S $ 400 million that could produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year by 2025.
Singapore plans to phase out gasoline vehicles by 2040 and expand the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles from 1,600 charging stations to 28,000 by 2030.
A bad year
It is no understatement to say that this year has been headwind on several fronts.
Covid-19 has played a pivotal role in those headlines that hit the news this year. It has dealt a blow to businesses, but also created opportunities for others.
Companies that have managed to survive are the ones that innovated and panned.
Are we prepared for 2021? We don't know for sure, but shop closings or bankruptcy calls no longer surprise us.
Selected image source: RSM Singapore / Singapore Business Review / Founder BKT / Gardens By The Bay / Getty / Caixin Global