Typography

Lehtinen finds himself next to the statue of Johan Vilhelm Snellman, the father of the Finnish Markka, in front of the Bank of Finland in Helsinki

President and chairman of FIMKrypto, Svante Lehtinen believes in technology and economics for a social good.

Svante Lehtinen is the president and chairman of Krypto FIN ry, a Finnish association dedicated to bringing the new cryptocurrency FIMKrypto to the world. Lehtinen is interested in the technical and economic aspects of cryptocurrencies, but he also thinks they can have a major social welfare element.

Having worked in the e-currency business since 1999, Lehtinen was in a prime position to follow the developments. After first noticing Bitcoin in 2010, but feeling it was “a far cry back then”, it took him a further two years to accommodate the thought and get into Bitcoin. This length of time to act is not unusual, he outlines, with many taking a similar length of time from the first sight of cryptocurrencies until the point one actually starts to use them.

What were you doing in the e-currency business?

It all started from a single course of Internet programming I took during my Bachelor of Engineering studies. With the knowledge from the course I developed some software for payment processing with the predecessor of cryptocurrencies, e-gold. People found that useful and contacted me, and the jobs quickly escalated to larger scale web database systems for e-commerce, gaming and online banking.

In the early 2000s the web database systems were simpler than nowadays, so – this might sound unbelievable – it wasn’t exceedingly complicated for a one-man operation to dive into developing full web banking solutions for offshore financial institutions, for instance. I got to know e-commerce and credit card payment processing inside out. Many of the software modules I developed back then are still usable.

Age and place of birth: 39, Finland
Family: Wife and son (11)
Education: B.Eng studies
When I was a child I wanted to be… a time traveller. In the future I hope… to help more people do well.
The one thing that would improve the world would be… redefining money.
I admire… focussed performance and personal coherence.

What makes your cryptocurrency project FIMKrypto unique?

There are hundreds of cryptocurrencies, most of which are clones’ of Bitcoin or its derivatives with little if any fresh innovation. FIMKrypto is cryptocurrency evolved, based on the second generation of crypto platforms that are not just currencies but consist of a number of extended functionalities based on the public cryptolegder of all events recorded, ‘blockchain’.

Being launched and coordinated by a registered non-profit association, FIMKrypto has a unique organisational structure that can be used to govern its two unique selling points: basic income and block rewards based on a peer network algorithm that does not waste electricity in proof of work calculations like Bitcoin does.

How long have you been developing it?

The ideas for a basic income cryptocurrency started to materialise in autumn 2013 through early hybrid versions that used Bitcoin as the technical payment platform. Coincidentally meeting the head developer (who is not Finnish, ironically) in December had us stick together for some related projects and base material, so the planning really kicked up. It wasn’t until March 2014 when we committed to developing the Finnish cryptocurrency, to be launched in three months.

Tell us about the basic income component.

The main innovation of FIMKrypto is the national basic income, paid in internationally acclaimed cryptocurrency. Every Finnish resident who can use the online identification facility of any Finnish bank can authenticate herself and begin to receive an amount starting from 500 FIMK monthly, paid without obligation for approximately three to four years.

FIMKrypto natively supports the basic functions of the second-generation crypto platforms, such as: Decentralized Asset Exchange, Encrypted messaging with distributed auto-archive, and Decentralized Marketplace [peer-2-peer network web shops for merchants, practically for free].

Why do you want the basic income?

Having grown up and lived in Finland most of our lives, we wanted to do our part to give something back to the fatherland. Basic income is a large structural reform that the Finnish citizens have waited to come through for dozens of years. It hasn’t been achieved yet, so we took it as our mission to test out how it would work through the new cryptocurrency paradigm.

The value of FIMKrypto, of course, hasn’t yet reached a level where the funds reserved for the basic income experiment (313 million FIMK) would offer a significant real monthly income for any one individual. But it’s in our hands – and in the hands of Finns and the crypto community as a whole – to make it happen that the value of the 500 monthly FIMK will steadily approach that of five hundred old Finnish Marks in 2001 or even beyond. It’s well possible. It’s our dream.

What kind of response is the basic income getting?

The response for the basic income is mixed. People experience difficulties in believing that someone other than the state would be able to give them considerable sums of free money, just for living in Finland. For this reason many doubt the viability of the project. The non-profit association was established to prove them wrong. The authentication program for the basic income begins in October 2014.

What other roles does the association play in the project?

Krypto FIN ry, the association behind FIMKrypto, pushes the project forward and develops services such as merchant solutions. The association recently released a service that allows FIMK transfers and invoicing through SMS messages. Another cooperation project that sends FIMKrypto and Bitcoins literally ‘on air’ through Digita’s nationwide digital TV broadcast network is ongoing a pilot phase until the end of October 2014.

You say FIMKrypto is a community project. Do you know about how many people are participating in it?

The basic income is only starting and media exposure is just building up, so the community is still very small. Technology projects and the daily chores engage about half a dozen people constantly, but the pace is picking up. We are releasing new multicurrency wallet software [in mid-October] and with the launch of the strong authentication we expect that to affect community participation significantly.

You set up a non-profit organisation and are pushing a basic income. How important is social justice to you personally?

Moral fairness in general is paramount in my personal values. Social justice should function as an extension to the basic principles of heightened sustainability. It comes back to the ideals and ambitions of human development, and flowing with the universal laws that govern the whole nature and the multi-layered societal and memetic organisms on our planet and beyond.

I personally believe that maximising wellbeing in large makes us more evolutionarily fit as a human species. However, categorising myself a socialist, not to even mention an idealistic one, would go too far. I recognise the constantly changing circumstantial exceptions and prefer to operate from a more utilitarian standpoint.

I’m not ashamed to admit there’s more than a pinch of selfishness in that kind of thinking. Throwing the defects of our society to the back of our minds can only take your own happiness so far. Those unhandled issues (of ‘others’ problems’) usually hit you in your face at some point. So I’m better off when we all are doing better. Altruism is the highest development of selfishness; considering them mutually exclusive is just so wrong. It involves a lot of delayed gratification though, which is never easy to grasp or maintain. Therein lies the source of, and the solution to our problems as mankind.

What kind of response are you getting in regards to the name FIM? Are people interested in a Finnish currency again?

The reactions for the name have been almost completely indifferent. It’s the content that matters. There is a certain, rising need for a purely Finnish currency again. The abbreviation FIMK was coined with that in mind – it’s the same as the old Finnish Markka.

I understand there is quite a bit of trading going on, but what about merchant acceptance? How is FIMKrypto coming as a medium of exchange?

For the first three months after launch we have concentrated in building the community and getting the technology ready for mainstream adoption. Merchants have been able to use the system all the time, but due to the image of the volatile valuation most are hesitating until ‘we can see others come in’. It is the chicken-egg problem. The same can be observed with Bitcoin but in a much larger scale.

Merchants understandably require explicit liquidity for the currency they accept as payment, which is difficult to arrange for thinly traded markets such as a new cryptocurrency. The association is working to arrange such a facility with the help of the existing backup funds to guarantee liquidity.

This is another service mostly unheard of in the cryptocurrency scene.

Because it can operate at apparent loss, the non-profit nature of the Krypto FIN ry association enables many manoeuvres that are impossible for the commercially operating cryptocurrency competitors.

Why is it important to include the strong authentication?

FIMKrypto uses strong authentication to verify the identity of basic income receivers. We leverage this property to offer a completely new service through the decentralized peer network: not surprisingly, authentication through FIMKrypto accounts.

By enabling authenticated FIMK account holders to use their accounts for further online identification needs we hope to achieve a smoother operation of transactions generally where strong authentication is required. The system used by banks, TUPAS, is old, often difficult and expensive to be adopted by the casual merchant. Authentication through FIMKrypto is almost free, requires no paperwork, and is technically simple. FIMK authentication is not yet regarded as an officially strong authentication method, but it’s our goal to end up there.

Cryptocurrencies seem very complicated. How would you suggest a novice get familiar with cryptocurrencies in general and FIMKrypto in particular?

For a novice the fimk.fi and bitcoin.org websites are a good starting point. Cryptocurrencies are technically very complex and can’t be exhaustively explained in any single resource. It was refreshing for myself psychologically to notice the human limitations in the adoption of the cryptocurrency mindset.

I think the subject’s complexity combined with the new paradigm of money feels repulsive to most people initially. One may think she doesn’t need to know any details. But still it’s becoming increasingly useful to be able to use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or FIMK. So, like any area, once you give your little finger to it if only for usage, with time you are drawn deeper into the secrets.

For the technically more inclined and interested in cryptography, the ‘For Dummies’ series by Wiley usually takes you a long way. Yet more specialised knowledge about second generation crypto platforms can be obtained from the fine presentation in the NXT wiki. FIMK is based on NXT.

What do you do in your free time?

As an entrepreneur at heart, the definition of free time became ambiguous long ago! Like a medieval blacksmith, you are what you do, day or night. However, like most entrepreneurs who overshoot that mentality when growing up, you learn to detach yourself. It’s especially important when you operate in the online world most of the day. For me, being with family offers that detachment. I enjoy nature and am used to boating, hiking in the forest and skiing in the winter. For family reasons I also have to drive a lot. Being in the car offers a kind of neutral ground, a gateway from the business area to the more private, offline world.

What’s next for FIMKrypto?

I would like to invite people interested in cryptocurrencies to try out FIMKrypto, because it’s one of the most user-friendly, effective and feature-rich crypto platforms available. Not everyone knows that with modern crypto platforms you can not only send money, but you can also use encrypted messaging – a more secure and trustworthy way of communication than the ancient email.

If you own a business, you can set up a web shop with an integrated payment system and engage with customers standing by waiting for places to spend their crypto wealth. You can list your business shares for sale in the decentralized asset exchange. Everything happens with negligible cost equivalent to fractions of cents per operation. The added fees don’t go to any commercial party but to the peer community holding up the network infrastructure.

FIMKrypto is a community project. The essence of that is you can make a difference. With euro or Bitcoin it’s difficult to make a difference or see how you could affect the success or failure of these mammoth currencies.

FIMKrypto is an infant currency where everything depends on the people it hangs by with. And it’s not officially a currency! As long as your transactions remain in FIMKrypto you can forget all the nasty paperwork.

Text David J. Cord,
images Tomas Whitehouse.