2019 was a pretty eventful year in many respects, where history was made in some instances, and controversy was rampant in others.
With the new decade almost upon us, we take a chance to look back at some of the companies and individuals that left a lasting mark in 2019, be it a positive or negative. Some of these might appear more low-scale than others, but their impact on their involved parties cannot be understated.
Here are 7 companies and individuals that made headlines in 2019, in no particular order.
7. Uber made MENA tech startup history with its $3.1 acquisition of Careem
When Uber announced that it will be acquiring regional competitor Careem for $3.1 billion, the Middle Eastern tech sector was utterly surprised. While an acquisition had long since been rumored and discussed, the fact that it actually came true was a huge milestone for the Arab tech and startup scene.
While Silicon Valley is used to witnessing such deals day in and day out, the MENA region hasn’t been as privy to such a privilege. The fact that a homegrown MENA startup like Careem was able to reach unicorn status in a few years, exerting pressure on a multi-billion dollar behemoth like Uber, eventually leading to a buyout, is unprecedented in the Middle East. Many startups are launched in the hopes of a grand successful exit such as this, and very few have experienced it. As such, when Uber finally confirmed the deal, the MENA startup and tech sector received a refreshing jolt of life, and a renewed sense of hope.
6. Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) sent the first Emirati into space
The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), under the guidance of the leaders of the UAE, contributed a groundbreaking record to the history books of the UAE this September, after its concentrated efforts to put an Emirati man in space finally paid off.
Major Hazzaa Al Mansouri was the first Emirati in space, but the MBRSC is now looking for a new candidate for the second edition of its UAE Astronaut Programme.
5. Facebook ventures into crypto with its own currency, Libra
Crypto and blockchain received a major boost this year when Facebook announced that it is developing its own digital currency. However, unlike Bitcoin and other popular ‘coins,’ Libra would be backed by real world financial assets, to avoid the volatility experienced by most other digital currencies.
Libra has had somewhat of a rough time as of late, with many initial investors dropping out. Time will tell how things will unfold, but given that Libra is directly connected to a company mired in anti-trust investigations, investors are wary.
4. Boeing faces international controversy for being involved in two plane crashes
The unfortunate story of the now grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft started March 10th, 2019 when the Ethiopian Airline jet tragically crashed a mere 6 minutes into its flight, in a manner eerily similar to a previous tragedy that involved a Lion Air flight back in October 2018.
Both crashes occurred due to faulty software installed on the 737 MAX, which has drawn the ire of the international public. The return of the Max is not expected before February at the earliest before further testing of the aircraft is conducted.
3. Carlos Ghosn and the tale of alleged corruption
Nissan ex-CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested late last year after the Japanese automaker accused him of using company funds for personal use. Arrested multiple times on new charges that prosecutors would surface sequentially, he was eventually released on bail and currently awaits trial.
Ghosn denies all accusations against him, claiming that the whole situation is a power play by Nissan executives not content with his plans to further the Alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi. Renault in particular holds a much larger stake in Nissan than vice versa, which has left Nissan execs rattled. Ghosn held leading positions in both firms, and believed a closer Alliance or even a potential merger would serve the interests of Nissan.
2. Tesla and Elon Musk made the news for plenty of reasons
After long-standing-CEO Elon Musk was ousted as chairman of Tesla last year following an unfounded tweet claiming that Tesla would go private, Musk has found ways to remain at the center of media buzz, likely due to his colorful public persona.
Most recently, he was the talk of the town after revealing Tesla’s latest vehicle: The retro-designed, block-shaped Tesla Cybertruck. During the media reveal, a technical hiccup that could’ve derailed the entire panel occurred, but Musk’s spontaneous attitude and persona helped steer the awkward situation in his company’s favor, earning him the growing admiration of the internet.
Tesla also made the news when it reported acceptable financial performance in 2019, after finally making a profit in Q3 2018. In an industry of money-burning tech firms of which Tesla is certainly one, the electric automaker has been able to buoy investor interest. However, the company did suffer from production delays during the year.
To top that off, Tesla is also working on a new gigifactory outside the US after gaining permission from Chinese authorities. It is being built in Shanghai, China. The facility will help cut costs, bring Tesla vehicles directly to Chinese consumers (working around tariffs caused by worldwide circumstances such as the US-China Trade War), and cement Tesla’s place in the international market.
1. Google’s push into gaming was dead on arrivalWhile great things were expected of Google’s video game streaming platform Stadia, the device disappointed upon release last month. With a limited library of games, a pretty hefty novelty mark-up, as well as demanding a super-fast internet connection, Google found itself with a losing formula.
Still, the mere advent of video game streaming receiving the endorsement of a company like Google was enough to send waves across the industry, nudging competitors to accelerate R&D on their own projects.