his time last year, our team in Europe made some bold predictions with many of them becoming true. But nobody could have predicted the global pandemic and its impact on all of our lives.
Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, pictured above, has been a standout success during the pandemic, amassing a $4.4 billion fortune, while delivering blowout quarterly numbers that delighted Wall Street.
In 2022, our focus turns to a more sustainable future, one with a healthy dose of optimism, freed from the shackles of the past 2 years.
Read our European team’s expert predictions for the year ahead.
Valuations will be tested
Iain Martin, European News Editor
Europe’s tech startups celebrated a banner year in 2021 with over $100 billion invested, a new record and more than double the amount invested in the prior 12 months. That influx of capital, a string of blockbuster IPOs and listings, and moves by some of Silicon Valleys’ most prominent investors to set up shop on the continent signalled that the U.K.’s and Europe startups are increasingly looking to compete globally.
Some of these headline-grabbing startups face a potentially challenging 12 months to ensure that they meet the ambitious targets promised to investors and grow into the eye-watering valuations set out in this year’s mega-rounds. Europe’s engineers and startup talent are likely to benefit from scenarios with the pandemic, and remote work becoming a default option for many, stripping away traditional geographic barriers or pressure to relocate to a tech hub like London, Berlin, or Paris.
Those valuations are also likely to be tested by how the crop of European startups that went public in 2021, some perhaps prematurely via a SPAC-listing, fare. The question of whether British and European institutional investors have the same appetite as their colleagues across the Atlantic for fast-growing, but loss-making startups is likely to continue and will see more European listings on NYSE and NASDAQ.
The explosion of meta-infrastructure
Isabel Togoh, Associate News Editor
Meta plunged marketing departments and human resources desks into overdrive when it announced its ambition to bring the metaverse to life in November. It’s not the first company to try to create an immersive digital universe for us to shop, share and connect with each other, but it is the most committed and widely used yet.
A cursory search of the leading jobs board Indeed reveals 1,300 adverts containing the word ‘metaverse’ in the U.S. alone, so if you didn’t know about it last year, well, by the end of 2022, your next job might just be inside it—or at least related to it. It’ll take around 10 years, at least 10,000 people and way more than $10 billion for Meta to fully realize its vision but, if there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that long-term processes can be effectively accelerated into a much shorter timeframe (hello, Covid-19 vaccines).
Expect industries of all sizes—from fashion to film and beyond—to lay the groundwork for their place in the metaverse next year. After all, as we enter the third year of a cruel pandemic, there may be no better time to rely on fantasy and augmented reality.
The digital realm will reflect the physical
Tom Brewster, Associate Editor, Cybersecurity
There are at least two ways in which cyber is predictable: first, cybercriminals will follow in the footsteps of intelligence agencies in the sophistication of their attacks and their targets, and second, what countries do in the digital realm is always a reflection of what’s happening in the physical domain.
With those two things in mind, expect to see more attacks on critical infrastructure from financially-motivated cybercriminals, who are now all too aware they can make a lot of money by breaking into companies whose existence is crucial for keeping countries running. And with Russia encroaching on Ukraine, it’d be no surprise to see repeats of the hacks targeting the latter’s power supplies. You never know, Ukraine might return fire with its own attacks on Moscow’s energy companies. And, as always, watch out for a mega breach or two.
The dawn of the non-nuclear age
Sofia Lotto Persio, Assistant Editor
Germany’s efforts to phase out its nuclear facilities will conclude in 2022, about a decade after the Fukushima disaster spurred a worldwide reassessment of nuclear power. It’s another nail in the coffin of an energy source whose golden age has long ended.
It may not seem like it: touting its low-carbon credentials, nuclear power proponents have tried to ride the wave of global net-zero commitments to revive interest in atomic energy. Countries like France, the U.K., and the Netherlands, are considering building new reactors. But the drawbacks are well documented—among other issues, nuclear power plants take years to build, construction processes are often plagued by delays, they require huge amounts of water to operate and the energy they produce is ultimately extremely expensive. If a country like Germany can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions with its reactors switched off, it will end nuclear power’s last possible raison d’etre.
The dawn of the non-nuclear age
Robert Hart, Breaking News Reporter
Last year, I optimistically predicted 2021 would be the first year of the post-Covid era. I was wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t think 2022 will be either.
But our relationship with Covid-19 will change. The disease will become more treatable as more drugs make it to market and vaccines, now just one item in a long list of disease control measures recommended by officials, will take on a more central role in public policy. There are already signs of this happening across Europe, from vaccine passports in France and Italy, targeted lockdowns for the unvaccinated in Germany and mandatory vaccination in Austria. Waning immunity and the emergence of new variants like omicron—and whatever comes after—will inevitably challenge our definition of “fully vaccinated,” which must expand to accommodate additional jabs.
A living and mutating entity, the coronavirus will remain a threat with many unknowns. The ongoing failure to distribute vaccines and treatments equitably, something unlikely to be resolved in 2022, will ensure it remains so, but 2022 might be the year we manage to exert more control over it than it does over us.