Anita Kalergis is a speaker at Cool’N Talk and Puhujatori, CEO and Founder of Ipsum Consulting, as well as an Ambassador for Blockchain Forum Finland. She is also known as KryptoGranny, who talks with key people in the crypto and blockchain space, trying to make it understandable and accessible to anyone.
We have interviewed Anita and we talked about her story, interests and thoughts, as well as her mission as KryptoGranny and her role in Blockchain Forum Finland and Helsinki Blockchain Center.
How did you get into the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry? Tell us about your background
My background is in sales and marketing, so I’m a marketer and a salesperson in my heart and soul, and I have no technical background, nor know-how whatsoever. Approximately, in the beginning of 2017, I was in Dubai. There was a friend of mine, who, at the time, got very much interested in cryptos and blockchain in general. For whatever reason I also got exposed to all this conversation we had and I thought that this was very interesting and I became curious. Dubai at the time was a very good place to be, because there were many meetups, that were explaining and introducing many actors, projects and ICOs basically every week. So I started going into these events, and I became more and more interested and got really excited about blockchain as a technology. I think that the attractiveness in blockchain is the technology, providing us the possibility to be able to trust something, and someone again.
Actually, that’s something I’ve been thinking more or less all weekend due to the US elections, that I wished there would be a way we could know what the actual truth is. So in my mind, in my world blockchain could be that technology. Obviously cryptos came along very fast, and because I have no understanding of the technology I needed to test, try and see for myself, in order to be able to understand. I bought some very few earliest cryptos at the time. Yes, I lost all of those, no money there. But it was not for the sake of the money, obviously, it was with the minimum amount you could invest, just to see how does it go, what does it mean to download the wallet, how do I buy these cryptos and all this stuff. So that was fun. Then, in one of these events, I met a Chinese lady, who had a technology company of her own. They were looking for and working with several blockchain/ crypto projects, they have cryptos of their own, and so on and so forth. One thing led to another. Eventually she wanted me to start work for her. So in 2018, I joined her company as a contractor and I worked for her for approximately a year.
In this context we also wanted to arrange a meetup in Finland. I googled and I found Markus Lehtonen from Blockchain Forum Finland (https://www.blockchainforum.fi/), I contacted him and we had our first meetup event in Helsinki, with this new Chinese principal of mine and some other projects that they were hosting at the time, I think it was the 30th of January 2018. Well, ever since the rest is history. I started interacting more with Blockchain Forum Finland, today I’m the official ambassador for them. This Chinese lady and project needed me to be in Malta, so 2018 I moved to Malta, and I was in charge, well, everything more or less they did in Europe. In 2018 Malta was an amazing place to be, all the blockchain events happened there, all the crypto people were there.
Also in 2018, KryptoGranny was born, and that’s me. So KryptoGranny is doing interviews, I have interviewed Andreas Antonopoulos, John and Janice McAfee, Dubai Blockchain Center CEO and founder Dr Marwan, and several other people about cryptos and blockchain. The challenge that KryptoGranny does is similar to Fyggex’s. I want actors in the scene to make it simple, down to earth, because at the time, especially in 2018, all the discussions were happening somewhere over my head, and they were looking for the mainstream people to join their ICOs, projects, tokens, coins, whatever, and no one understood what they were actually talking about. So I was challenging and I still am challenging the actors to talk in a way that people really understand “what is there for me?”, “what is it that you actually do?”.
Forget the tech talk, but rather concentrate on the ones that have meaning. So KryptoGranny was born and it’s really nice and funny actually because whenever I introduce myself with that name, people start to laugh, or at least smile a lot, and what is a better way to get to know someone by having them to smile and laugh. That is what has kept me doing what I do. Now things have obviously developed a lot, I am no longer with the Chinese, I have been involved also with another Chinese project taking place in Dubai with blockchain data storage initiative. But now I’m working with totally something different, as we speak related to FinTech. But I’m still involved with the Blockchain Forum Finland, where now we are in the process of establishing Helsinki Blockchain Center, which I think is amazing, finally.
I’m very much connected, my network is very global and I wish that with that initiative we will be joining a network of other Blockchain Centers globally. We would be the 23rd to start collaborating, sharing information, exchanging speakers, introducing companies here and there and everywhere jointly with the other Centres. So that is my main focus, if you wish, at the moment when it comes to collaborating with Blockchain Forum and acting as the ambassador, hopefully also in the Helsinki Blockchain Center.
What has been the most challenging for you in your journey?
Well obviously, being a non tech. Like I said the KryptoGranny was born, sort of, out of that because I really wanted to understand, to get down to the bottom of this whole tech thing. At the time when I joined, they were unable to help me understand what they are doing. Especially that I had no tech understanding, even though I had been in my consultancy work involved with ICT and IT companies.
On the other hand, I felt very strongly that the Finns were not there. I am Finn, coming from Finland, a Nokia country. When I was traveling the world with the Chinese principal of mine, it was me and all these Chinese, everyone of course asked where are you from, and when I said I’m from Finland, everywhere, the next comment was: where is Finland, where are you guys? We don’t see you nor hear you in Blockchain circles. So that was the other part, obviously, that I wanted to do with my blue and white heart, something to enable the Finns to become part of this and the Finns to just rush in and start introducing what we know and what we can. So even as a Finn, I needed to do a lot of work to find out who was there, and who was involved and what we had done.
I was wondering why people don’t know what these Finnish projects are all about, which obviously were there already at the time. Now they are making a lot more noise for themselves. So it was kind of a dual thing, one was the tech, not knowing, not understanding but when you challenge them enough and like me, I’m not a young lady so they respected me as the older “granny”, so they explained again and again until I understood, and that way I learned enough. And then the other part was obviously Finland, we have the know-how, but we don’t know how to sell ourselves. So I started to do that, on behalf of all of us, directly and indirectly.
Is your role going to be the same in Helsinki Blockchain Center as in Blockchain Forum Finland?
I believe yes. First of all, at this stage, as a start-up they cannot employ that many people. Frankly, I’m not interested in joining them as an employee, since I have my project ongoing, but in the ambassador role. I think it comes down to also what I personally want to achieve and what I personally want to do. I want to help and support my fellow countrymen in being better sales and marketing people, companies, and projects. To make noise for ourselves and all the know-how we have.
Finns are very poor unfortunately, at stepping into the spotlight, being in the front line bragging in the right manner and right way, not to talk untrue things, but brag with everything you’ve got and just make it a bit fancier than what it actually is, without lying. And that is what the industry and technology also requires because there are a lot of tech people, so sales and marketing people need to be there with them to support them. This is what I hope in Helsinki Blockchain Center to be. I can maybe even do more since it is a, hopefully, profitable company. The whole thing is to make money and to succeed in the role of helping the actors from Finland and, hopefully, North Europe and even within Europe and the globe.
Then Forum Association, that is something we have not finalized, as yet – the roles between these two, which is obviously very important because the association is a non-profit and it will need to remain non-profit, as well as neutral, objective. That’s something that I personally have been a bit challenged in what I feel that I need to do and what I hopefully can do, in this objective, neutral setting, so that remains to be seen. But I hope, probably the role will be something similar and I think that is, at this stage, quite a lot, actually.
Can you tell us a bit more about KryptoGranny?
The story started when I was participating in a meeting in financial supervisory authority https://www.finanssivalvonta.fi/en/with Blockchain Forum as Ambassador in 2018. There were also the guys from Konsensus (https://konsensusry.fi/en), so the true Bitcoin maximalists, if you wish, but we were all together as a group representing and discussing about the regulations to be in Finland etc.
So that meeting ended, and I met these Bitcoin guys, Konsensus representatives for the first time and I had revealed that you know I’m an older person, obviously, I’m actually a granny, which is true. I also said how attracted I am to this new world we are facing and the new future. That conversation sort of pumped up the KryptoGranny thing as a name. I already had started to do the interviews and challenging the actors, so KryptoGranny was born from that conversation with Niko and Rafe. Then I draw this logo of mine, which you can find in my LinkedIn profile as well, which I’m very, very proud of.
I’m totally incapable of drawing, and that’s my doing. So there is a tea cup, because everyone goes and has tea or coffee with their granny, then there is this antique pink background color, and then there is steam, which is one and zeros, and that actually writes KryptoGranny. I had the logo and then I had the brand and I said “okay, now I will start doing this”. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to do as much as I hoped, but I’ve been chasing, like I mentioned, different actors and influencers in the Malta Blockchain Summit. In Delta summit we interviewed quite many: Bobby Lee, Vinay Gupta, Adam Back, Miko Matsumara, Tone Vays etc. I really wanted KryptoGranny, to make the actors see that when we talk about the internet or when we talk about any other conventional application, for instance, no one talks about the technology, no one talks about what happens at the back of my laptop or online.
They talk about what I should do? Where do I find it? What do I need to do? Upload or add or whatever, to be able to do what I do. And this is not the case with cryptos or blockchain. It’s all about the technology. And the challenge of – why don’t you talk so I can get this, and if I can get this, then the rest of the mainstream can get it and then you have some chance of actually attracting investors, community members or token, crypto buyers.
Then the other part of KryptoGranny is obviously to fight money laundering, terrorists, whatever “fame”, the industry holds. I want to clear that up. Like I said in the beginning that’s a big challenge. I want the truth to be out there, I really would want us to be able to discuss and exchange ideas and thoughts, and have conversations. All the actors who are needed to be involved, to really make an open, proper, true conversation of what is out there. This involves obviously the banks, financial institutions, the lawmakers, and the regulators as well as the actors.
By the truth I mean how much is there actually money coming from terrorists or for money laundering, when we talk about Bitcoin for instance? And now when we have those sort of cleared out, can we now concentrate on the real thing, and that still is there. So the wrong beliefs of what cryptos are all about, why they exist, or does it allow you to do illegal stuff, in a way you couldn’t do anywhere else. Obviously, it’s untrue, but the beliefs are there. So that’s one of the things I really try to change, and all of that KryptoGranny does, I collect and then put the tea service on the table.
Now let’s have a chat and talk over, see what we have and then end up with something that makes sense, because there is no point of trying to deny this because it’s not going away. But if we collaborate and make it more down to earth, understandable and transparent, then we can get somewhere. So that is not the simple thing and not the one only thing. But all in all, what I carry in my heart, that I do, from behind the KryptoGranny brand, if you wish, which is sort of neutral. In a way it’s not me, Anita, it’s Granny.
What advice would you give for beginners for evaluating crypto projects and their risks?
First of all, no one should give any advice to anyone, more than just do your homework. But obviously, something I learned from the very, very beginning and that was to always check the team behind the project, who they are, who is actually involved? Who are the ones who have hands on? Who has a say in that project? One of my big disappointments personally, if you recall how attracted I was with this new technology, allowing us to be able to trust again, that there is no need for middleman to tell us who to trust, but actually there is this technology that will tell me, it is transparent, immutable and all the things it is.
Then we had “the year of scams”. There was scam after another and I was so disappointed like “guys, you are the ones who have this amazing capability of utilizing this amazing new technology. You are the ones who can make this change happen. And with the first opportunity, you try to take our money.” It was so disappointing. So I really put a lot of emphasis into this, do your homework and it is important to understand who is actually there, not just the photos on the homepage but also contact those people. Because if I am involved in an actual project, and I tell that “yes you can put my face on your website”, and I’m your advisor, or CTO, or CFO or whatever.
If someone would approach me, contact me, and ask me information about that project, I surely would want to answer. I certainly would want that person to trust, join and invest their money in my project or in this project I am involved with. So if you contact someone and they don’t reply, or you don’t actually see a true convincing information that these people are involved in this and they have a say or influence in what’s going on. Then don’t invest. Only the people that are there for real, they are active, they keep interviews, they talk about it and they answer your questions. Even on LinkedIn, I have tested that, and I’ve got replies from those I actually felt also were trustworthy and truly with the project. So that’s the one, and of course there is also all these good advice of the total supply and circulation supply, but it’s not that clear if you’re a beginner. Also, I would take the approach from this sort of semi conventional investment way. Then obviously there are these gurus, if you wish, who are giving good advice, who can be found on YouTube.
You can also reach out to the communities, similar to Konsensus ry, for instance in Finland and other blockchain communities and ask the people, have conversations and learn from there. Then step by step, you will understand. Don’t trust the numbers only, because what is +37% today, can be -80% tomorrow. So, that’s not the place to go and define. Investigate, you need to do a lot of work, so it’s not just something small to do. And don’t trust anyone, do your homework, due diligence also yourself. There is no one that can tell you that this is good, it might not be for you.
How do you see the future of cryptos and blockchain in the coming years?
Very interesting. I personally believe in this technology. I do believe that we all have more and more desire to be able to trust again, something or someone. And like I mentioned in the beginning, this weekend I have been 48 hours thinking that it’s horrible you can’t really trust anything. I don’t care who won the US elections really, it doesn’t involve me directly anyway. But I would want to know what the truth is. Was there fraud? Are there lies? Who is wrong and who is right? I would like to know, whatever the outcome is. And blockchain technology, even in this context actually, there is some talk already and that was my very first thought, that we can have blockchain technology involved in the voting in the future somehow. So, I do believe that more and more serious actors, conventional actors will come along too. So blockchain technology for sure, will go forward and it will go forward faster.
Cryptos, they stay, there is no turning back, that’s for sure. I would be very surprised if in cryptos we would come down and end up having just one globally. I don’t think so. We will have several, but which, is it even Bitcoin. No one knows yet, to be honest. I believe that there will be some kind of cryptos and I believe that we will gain a consensus globally to use something.
I believe it’s from the modern world, not the conventional ones, financial institutions, and banks, I don’t believe you guys have a say here. But what it is, no one knows. Then there is the wildcard – Artificial Intelligence. What that will bring when the time is there, to the table, we don’t know yet. That is the only one also that I am personally very hesitant about. So how can we start using AI in a proper, good way, combining all of these we’ve been discussing and whatever we don’t know as yet, but at same time, sort of being able to control the AI. That is interesting and I won’t live to see that time, I don’t think so.
Even though I’m not that old yet, but I believe that it will take a long time and the future that we are visioning today will take another 20 to 30 years. But blockchain and cryptos, not long 5 to 10 years max, and we will have a totally different world than we have.
What do you see as the biggest thing the cryptocurrency or blockchain industry is lacking?
I think we have not been able to really define what we want to gain out of it all. We have the conventional actors, whether you talk about technology, ICT, IT, telecom even. Then we have the financial sector, all of them, investors, banks, insurance, whatever, all the fintech. Then we have this new sector combining the named, and we have not been able to really find the consensus in the means that, what do we want to get out of this, what is the purpose of all of this, do we actually want to become something the same all of us, and work to enhance everyday experiences in everything.
Are we willing to give up this crazy profit chasing way of working, that there is so much for 10% of people and we don’t care about the rest? Or do we actually want, which the technology should allow us to gain, something that is profitable and good for each and every one on Earth. Such as nature and the climate. So, I’m really combining all the dots on the map. At this point, we need first to find on the national level, a way of understanding what is there for us, each and every country, and then going up from there, Scandinavia, Nordics, Europe etc. So that’s what I see, we are just all chasing something on the individual level, or on the community level, or on company level. But not even on the national level as yet.
We should find the red line, the purpose, grab on to that, go towards that direction and then find the others coming to the same direction and sort of go forward jointly. So, communication, negotiation, gathering around the same roundtable to discuss and define to understand, listen, all of that. We have a lot of work that I believe.
Do you have any favourites or interests in cryptocurrencies or other projects?
Well, Decentralised Finance is for sure interesting. That’s something that I try to understand a bit more and more. Then obviously there are the NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Unique Digital assets e.g. Digital artwork I’m meeting this week Vesa Kivinen, a crypto artist from Finland. In this meeting with him I try to understand more about NFT. So again, bringing new aspects to this whole big thing, having art or experiences that are one of a kind and then sort of also materialize those. But then on the other hand, being able to have, hold and share something that is very unique and then like today, we have the conventional paintings, or statues, or old gold coins or whatever it might be.
So sort of bringing again something new from the conventional traditional world into this digital new world of ours. So that’s one, and then Decentralised Finance that I find interesting and because I’m investigating that, and trying to understand it. So, in DeFi projects there is obviously Aave, and I’m not very willing to name any special projects but Aave I have to mention because it is a Finnish project. When I asked Stani (CEO) he confirmed we could consider it as a Finnish project. I always wanted to flag it as a Finnish project.
It is interesting, knowing the background of the guys. But in general, I’m very, very curious, following up to this never-ending conversation Bitcoin vs Ethereum. I find it still today crazy interesting, what are the pros and cons from both sides. My interest and favor is general in all of it. I also am interested, investigating, and looking into these projects that try to combine existing projects, that sort of try to utilize the existing network out there already and bring them together and enhance the overall field on those. The biggest projects on blockchain and cryptos are those that will integrate data from outside blockchain into blockchain. Unfortunately, I don’t want to name any specifically, but a big change is happening, and it comes more down to these different kinds of projects rather than projects individually, if you wish.
Which countries or jurisdictions have the most advanced crypto regulations?
I have no clue, and it’s not that I don’t know, I know. I’m helping as we speak today, several projects, defining which jurisdiction to go to. The change is constant. The regulations, they write new. The sandboxes are out there, testing is out there, conversations are out there, competition between jurisdiction and country cities is out there.
I have to say honestly that the selection is very wide. It comes down to what your project is, what are you actually doing. The regulatory frameworks ongoing at the moment in these conventionally known good to crypto or blockchain jurisdictions, they are also changing for the better and for the worse.
What do you see as the biggest threat for cryptos?
That’s a good question. I feel that that overall acceptance, kind of, is there already. And I see that, depending on who’s talking, that everyone kind of sees the benefits for them. So maybe I should conclude that it might be that we never get a consensus of what we want to achieve? What are we doing this for? What do we want? I think three years ago, I would have answered totally differently, obviously.
But so many things have changed for the better, so I don’t see a real true threat as such. Now, how will this transform? Will it transform to something different than what we have on our hands today, when we talk about cryptos, that might be? So, maybe, only for some reason, that I don’t see now, but if the lawmakers and the regulators would really get scared of something, and then just simply turn the switch. Maybe that but I don’t see it very probable. But if I have to name something, then this could be a threat.
What do you think is the next big thing or new direction for the cryptocurrencies?
Now I’m going to play a wildcard maybe – AI, as I said before. When AI becomes more involved. I’m talking about Artificial Intelligence more involved in the crypto technology side. I believe that with AI we can foresee something that the human mind actually doesn’t yet. So, I play that card. Granny card, non-tech, don’t forget that.
Thank you, Anita, for taking the time for this interview and sharing your interesting journey and expertise. We wish you all the best for the future.
Image Credit: @hennakoponen.photography
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