Fyggex VIP Insiders Interview Series: Mikko Valjakka, Blockchain Forum Finland

 

Mikko Valjakka is an experienced software developer and a blockchain enthusiast. Currently working at Accountor Eduhouse, additionally Mikko volunteers at the Blockchain Forum Finland, whose mission is to connect all blockchain actors in Finland. Mikko, as a board member, is responsible for education, university cooperation, and technology. 

We have interviewed Mikko and we talked about the Blockchain Forum Finland, the situation of blockchain in Finland and what we can expect in the future. 

 

How did you get into the blockchain industry? Tell us about your background

I have been in software development in two roles. Some years I have been mostly training and my last big training mission was training former Nokia employees. I taught them new programming languages and environments. Another role was in various software start-ups. Now for a couple of years, I have had a regular day job in an Accountor daughter company. As of blockchain, I have always been interested in new technologies, and I found blockchain very exciting. Around 2015-2016, I set up a blockchain workshop for programmers with other software developers. I didn’t know very much about the topic myself but it was more of a common learning experience and learning by doing, for example how to code applications on blockchain protocol. However, it was pretty early, especially in Finland so I couldn’t find any way to make a living of that. It has been more like a hobby, and now I am volunteering in the Blockchain Forum Finland.

 

What was the most challenging aspect for you personally within your blockchain journey? 

Like I said, I wanted to make my living out of that, but I couldn’t find a way. I have been looking for interesting projects to join, even in various companies. Also, I have tried to keep track of the blockchain technologies, since technologies are my main interest. However, now I look at the business aspect of blockchain more and more.

 

How does Blockchain Forum Finland help others in the industry?

The public requires a lot of enlightenment when it comes to blockchain and related technologies. There is the need for understandable and correct information. This is one of the main reasons the Blockchain Forum Finland was founded is collecting and sharing information. We have been up and running since 2016 and we managed to get together both the crypto sector and the conventional financial industry. We have also been involved in lobbying blockchain with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and so on. My role in the Blockchains Forum Finland as a board member is education and technology. 

The ambitious plan of the association was to organize summits. For three years now we have been arranging a Blockchain Summit in Helsinki, hoping it would become more popular every year. Of course, this year was very exceptional due to the pandemic and we were only able to arrange a smaller virtual summit in September. This has been the main thing, with other activities and events in the background, such as Ethereum Meetups in Helsinki. The meetups were initiated by coders and they have been running successfully for many years. Currently, they are in the hands of the Blockchain Forum Finland. Recently we have joined with the Estonian meetup and the group has around 500 names, even though there haven’t been any meetups lately. 

Currently our important partner is a company DBE Core, which facilitates business transaction messaging between companies. They are creating standards and tools for large enterprises to communicate and deliver mainly in the area of supply chains. So, we are working with them in Helsinki in the start-up centre. 

 

How is blockchain education in Finland? 

It is still quite occasional. Recently, I have noticed that some University of Applied Science have set up a blockchain training programme. Personally, I was able to arrange for the Aalto university to provide free courses. However, it is quite random and not in an organized manner. It is very much dependent on the local professionals who are interested in this topic. This is basically the only way to influence universities – finding the right person and motivating them to set up such training.  

 

Are you cooperating with universities in Finland? What does the cooperation with universities look like?

Not in an official way but some members of our board have important positions at universities, so it comes from personal relationships, possibly.

 

How would you describe challenges of the blockchain ecosystem in Finland?

Well, this question should be more specific because blockchain is not one thing. We should divide this question into the various business areas of blockchain. So, we can ask what is or what are the risks? Other uses of blockchain are for government purposes, and in heavy industry supply chain. So, we can take these three groups: crypto, government and supply chain, as they are different kinds. 

In Finland, usually people are saying that our authorities are slowing everything down and making things more difficult, which is of course… true, but on the other hand, everybody knows that public government and legalities take time. But what is positive in Finland, is that the authorities have been quite open and positive. Although things didn’t happen very fast, they actually did happen. A good example is the company Coinmotion, which received full permits to deal with Bitcoin trading from the government. Of course, they did have some struggles, for example with bank accounts as banks were afraid of cryptocurrencies at the time. However, now the company has developed and is doing a great job. 

So, other than cryptos, another area of blockchain technology is identities. There are a couple of identity projects in Finland. For example, MyData Association, which is international with the main headquarter in Finland. It is dealing with personal data regulation, especially in the EU, but also all over the world. Another project is Sisu ID. Also, in Tieto, they have their own blockchain department who have developed a personal data application.

 

There is some criticism that blockchain is unnecessary technology, it’s done just for the sake that it can be done, with the basic Oracle database. People are saying that it’s a nerd squad, even a technology without the business case.

This is a very good point. One example is logistics and supply chain, which would be simply too big to implement in a centralized manner. So, it must be this distributed. The fundamental ideology of blockchain is trust by distributed nodes and distributed information and the network guarantees the information instead of an institution.

 

In your opinion, which countries or jurisdictions have most advanced blockchain regulations?

Well, at one point the Far East, so Hong Kong, Singapore for example, but that may be deprecated knowledge. I don’t know what the current situation is, but at least there is a lot of blockchain business in those places. However, it’s getting better, here in Finland, and in European Union as well.

 

Do you see anything that is lacking in the blockchain industry and if so, what is it?

Well, for us the first thing is common understanding of blockchain and the understanding of the advantages of the technology. Secondly, there is still no university that trains blockchain technology deeply enough, at least in Finland. For companies, getting blockchain developers is a big deal, there’s lots of questions like where they would find them? And in the end, they must train them themselves.

Also, blockchain does not make sense if you are not speaking about a joint project where many organizations are sharing something. It doesn’t make any sense if some big company is using blockchain alone. There must be someone with whom you are using blockchain. Otherwise, you will not get any advantage. Blockchain is an instrument of cooperation, more than anything else. If we have a joint project, then another very difficult question is are we building on the Ethereum network? Where can we put up our own applications? or do we set up our own nodes of, for example Hyperledger. Companies such as Oracle, make this relatively easy from a technological point of view. But this is still very difficult to explain to any ordinary CEO, why is this so? It is challenging to explain together the infrastructure and the business model. 

 

What advice would you give to someone who would want to learn more about blockchain technologies? How can someone start learning blockchain development? What are the main skills of a blockchain developer?

Now, in Finland at least, there is a possibility to take the free course at Aalto University, which is run by the business faculty, so it is business oriented. Otherwise, I don’t know any public or free courses on blockchain technology in Finland. 

 

How do you see the future of blockchain? What kind of development can we expect in the coming years in your opinion?

When we speak about technical innovations, we can make a valid assumption in general that the short term development is overestimated and the long term development is underestimated. For example, in the supply chain and logistics, there is a lot of business because of partners such as Maersk, which runs most of the largest containers and ships in the world and the biggest transport passages from Asia to Europe. All of them soon will be administered by blockchain applications, which is invisible to ordinary people and even ordinary companies. 

In the finance sector, I would say that some payment systems similar to Swift, are likely to be blockchain based. That’s where things are occurring. However, the nature of blockchain is that it comes from very different corners of life and business. For example, the first blockchain based application running in Finland, which is publicly used, is Dias for selling properties. It was developed by Osuuspankki and utilizes blockchain, which allows for doing all the paperwork digitally, speeding the process up significantly. This is a very good example of when suddenly a blockchain application appears from an unexpected direction. So that is why I think in long term blockchain will have a very big impact on many different areas.

 

Fyggex: We wish to thank you for sharing valuable insights with our audience and looking forward to meet you in the near future Blockchain Forum Finland events again, thank you for the interview.

 

For more info & events click: www.blockchainforum.fi

 

 

 

Image: Anastasia Borisova

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