Fyggex VIP Insiders Interview Series 18: Sven Martinsson. Founding Partner & CEO, VALEGA Chain Analytics Oy

Who is Sven Martinsson and how did you get into Blockchain? 

I am a Swedish Brazilian from  Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and from Gothenburg in Sweden. I would say, I lived most of my time in Stockholm then moved to Finland about seven years ago. And even though I studied politics in Lund, I jumped into the whole digitalization sector when I moved to Finland. I really fell in love with it so politics kind of fell apart from my life. 

The more I worked  with big companies and seeing how they were digitalising and innovating different technologies really impressive to me, so I actually joined an app developing company shortly after moving to Finland. Shortly after, one of my previous co-workers came to me and said ”hey about this blockchain stuff in cryptocurrencies, how about that? There seems to be something there that you want to work with”. I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning, but the more I started looking into it, the more excited I got about it, and I figured let’s do it. We started working on the side with marketing for these cryptocurrency projects that were happening. Many of these tokenisation Icos and such. And it was going well until the whole industry kind of crashed a couple years back. And we were really worried about what the future was going to hold for us as a company, and the technology itself. There was of course a lot of scams going on. The regulations weren’t really out there so we were really thinking how do we even find good projects anymore? But then the fifth anti money laundering directive came into play. And it kind of changed the entire industry, all of a sudden everybody had to monitor their transactions really closely. So we figured this is actually something that will change the industry. So, rather than starting promoting these companies, why don’t we help them be compliant. And that’s where we just pivoted our entire business and create the monitoring solution or the compliance platform that today is when I get chained analytics where people can connect their API’s and their platforms so that they are monitoring everything that’s going on, really to to stop money laundering financing terrorism and other illegal activities and two years later two and a half years later, here we are. 


What has been the most difficult for you personally in this journey?

It’s been actually educating the old school industries about the potential of blockchain. As well as the benefits of tokenization or trading with cryptocurrencies in general, it’s been really trying to share and spread that knowledge, not only for industries that are more on the tech side but of course also the financial industry, the banks or insurance companies. But we do notice that they’re starting to come along, you’re seeing almost every single conference, when it has to do with digitalization and especially within financing you’re always have blockchain and cryptocurrencies virtual assets as topics.


What has been, in your opinion, the biggest threat to blockchain?

Well, regulations without knowledge about the technology itself, I think. So when you’re talking to politicians very often you do see that there’s a big lack of knowledge of what is actually going on in the sphere what the potential is right. So, at times you can get these regulations that are basically built from the old financial systems and they don’t necessarily translate as well. Towards the cryptocurrency sphere, and that’s very dangerous. We’ve seen several of these regulations not only come into play, but also be reversed. Which is a big thing in that sense and then you know adapted towards this but I think that’s probably one of those things. For sure. 


Can you make it more safe, or how can you make sure that their regulations are being followed? 

Yes, more safe. I mean that is again the education, upgrading the ecosystem that is the financial industry. This is not only for cryptocurrencies, I mean, we’re talking about the new digital banking, you know if you’re looking at revolute, and 26 and, and more banks that are coming into play when it comes to just being a virtual digital space, I mean that is also something that changes constantly and very fast. And right now, everything you do is on the smartphone. Not very long ago was everything was just the computer, and before that paper. We don’t know what’s going to be the next thing in 10 years from now, so everything has to adapt really really fast. And I think that that Blockchain, really plays into it a lot. 


How do you see the future of blockchain what kind of development, what do you think we will see in 2021?

I think that a lot of it is the security part that we just mentioned there, of course, when you’re doing these kind of innovations constantly security always becomes a thing and transparency. And I think that 2021 is the year where we have seen that a lot of regulations came into play in 2020. They were fairly strict but still not impossible for companies even startups to implement that of course, upgrades the level of security. But then I think that the next part is to actually prove that this is safe and this is transparent and the way that we can transact with money in the future is in a way more transparent in general, and we can see this because we not only see banks really coming on onto it now. We see several banks in Germany and even in the Nordics we see banks experimenting with with crypto currency or, at least, the blockchain technology of it, as well as regulations coming into different countries within Europe following basically the same standards as the United States and even Asia so it becomes a global effort to kind of bring this to a more safer environment to trade on. And I think that of course having the big players join in, for example, like revolute or plus 500. etoro all falling into this, allowing people to trade is already a huge step for the technology itself as well. So I think we’re going to be seeing quite a big revolution of how it goes and of course looking at the the price of bitcoin right now. It’s been going pretty well, of course it’s a very up and down as it goes but it’s still the most valued currency out there the vote. 


If you think on a 10 year scale, what do you think is the big next big thing for blockchain? 

I think that it will be that all financial systems will basically run on blockchain. I think that that’s really something that will happen. We’re always talking about the swift protocols but I think that will basically be something of the past. I mean Swift is already experimenting with blockchain itself. So I think that will be something that becomes standard, and especially Bitcoin and maybe even aetherium and other cryptocurrencies will be household names, everybody will know what that is and everybody will know that there’s an underlying technology called blockchain. And I think that even more so in the coming 10 years I think we’re seeing more and more countries, actually using virtual assets. 

Go to money right we’re seeing that being spoken of in the United States government. The Chinese government, even the Swedish company government have come to some idea about this. So I think that this will really be something that happens soon. 


So in 2021 at the UK will leave EU and the United States will change precedent, Uganda and Japan has an election coming up. So there’s a lot of changes happening, how do you think this will affect blockchain? 

I think it won’t affect it that much, because the beauty of blockchain it’s that it’s more for the people. It is the people’s technology, especially in cryptocurrencies is the people’s money, sort of say, so I think that, depending on, the changes that are happening in governments and such. I don’t think that it will affect because it is digital, it’s very hard to stop digitalization in general, and having such a backing from big players now in not only the financial industry but also other companies who are doing things like supply chain management and monitoring. And these are not small companies they’re like massive companies, transport companies. I don’t think it will be such a change that affects blockchain. And the technology as a whole, in that way, hopefully for the better. 


In some cryptocurrency criticism it now and then pops up that many parts of their blockchain ecosystem is directly or indirectly dominated by China. That means infrastructure, servers, networks, nodes etc. Do you consider that true?

I mean, the Chinese question is always funding is everything basically that. I mean if you’re looking at the devices that we’re talking into right now. I mean, you know, 95% of it is built by China, and exploited by China. So I usually think that becomes irrelevant when we’re talking about the technology as a whole or what’s going on if anything, shouldn’t be so that China has a heavy hand in virtual assets that they build themselves or, blockchain technology in terms of if they have mining operations or such. I mean, there’s an extent that’s all transparent. So of course yes we understand that governments can put on impose sanctions and such but the bottom line is that all the information will be there. So I think that it shouldn’t really matter if it’s China or the US or if it’s the EU who are really controlling this, I mean it’s a decentralized technology so it’s everywhere. I don’t think we can really say that oh China is the one who is involved in this or the US is the one who is dominated. 


So you don’t see this as an issue?

I don’t really see that as an issue. Now, if anything, I see that thing as more of a, something that will spark, even further innovation. If China is first with virtual assets, it just makes it so that Europe or the US want to follow suit or they want to be first to do it right so it is probably just a good thing for the innovation in general. 


There are many blockchains, public, hybrid, private and Hyperledger, Ethereum, new ones such as Cosmos and Polkadot. How do you see the security maturity amongst these?

Personally, I would see that the blockchain the real blockchain that we kind of fought for are the satoshis idea is the public open blockchain. And I think that is where most things happen anyways. Now, in terms of currencies and being the biggest currencies, if we’re looking at Hyperledger’s or things for example, IBM has been building as well. I don’t really see them as actual blockchains in the sense of what it was meant to be from the beginning. And of course when it comes to these closed ones, obviously there’s risks with everything that you do. I think that the whole idea and what most people would actually want, especially the general traders and such, is to have an open blockchain, a public blockchain that everybody can have access to at least see what’s going on. Then if it comes to the privacy thing, that’s really just numbers and letters that we’re looking at it’s only the actual financial institutions themselves, such as exchanges and such who actually sit on the identity of people and that’s the same as it would be in any company. But at least here there is some form of transparency so you know personally I’m more of a Bitcoin person. 


Which one of these are the best vs the worst in your opinion?

Oh, that’s a really hard question though, because I mean of course in Bitcoin. For example, that is open and that’s a tradable currency with lots of potential in that sense, but then you look at the theory and that’s more or less the protocol that’s the technology that allows for. I mean, the amount of developers who develop on on using the Ethereum space. I think that’s where you really see the values so I would say that those two are the most valuable. Then of course, you can go to the other ones like Elan Musk always talking about Dogecoin as such I mean those are, in general, everything is speculative. But I would say that the most important ones are definitely Bitcoin and Ethereum. I mean, in essence, everything is a democracy when it comes to to blockchain and cryptocurrency. So the most powerful ones, the most popular ones wins. And that is at the moment, of course. Bitcoin and Ethereum and we see coins falling out all the time. Now with XRP for example that’s an unfortunate incident that happens, they’re gonna have to deal with that in some way but that was one of the biggest cryptocurrencies out there.

Everything has its importance at some point but then, you have to keep up with the with times.


Do you have any tips on how to keep yourself updated with all the information that’s coming in?

I would just say just keep reading. You know the standard like blockchain coin news outlets that are there, there are several of them. And of course also follow the the general news. See what’s up, what are people actually talking about when it comes to that. And personally it’s fun to just follow the trades that are going on even if you’re not trading yourself at that moment it’s always fun to just see what’s actually going on, and for developers, of course, there is definitely a potential in this technology, as we’ve seen, and it will just keep growing. And if people are developing more and more through blockchains I think that the whole world will kind of move forward and then you kind of know where it’s headed. I think that’s basically it and of course now universities and such have courses in blockchain. Not only from the depth side but also in terms of consultancy and financial as well. So I think that’s those are the general ways to do so and of course be part of the communities, the community of blockchain is awesome, I love it. 


Some thing that happened 2020 that you will bring with you into 2021? 

It’s the regulations. As a compliance company we actually noticed that several regulations have been talked about and we know that some of them will come up in 2021. Even though there was talks about having them implemented in 2020, but of course that and I think that the knowledge of the fact that these kind of things can change very drastically. I think that is an eye opener for a lot of people who are working within not only the financial part of blockchain but also compliance parts to really know that ”okay, like it can go very fast”. Where they’re imposing different rules and such on not only exchanges but then how you’re actually supposed to monitor those so that’s very important. So, that is definitely something I’m taking with me, the knowledge of having that experience. 

It’s been it’s been a crazy year, something that shows is as the markets have been going up and down, Bitcoin still stays strong throughout this entire pandemic and whatnot. And for one of the good things that I saw happen, is how, for example Bitcoin was being used in countries where the access to money like for example in Venezuela, people have been using blockchain as a means to transfer money right and thus being. And I think that has been able to empower the people even more and things like that, like being able to help out during a pandemic like this and seeing that the currency itself is growing like crazy. Even in the midst of all this I think that’s something pretty cool. 


Why Bitcoin is still going strong. Even though the world is very uncertain?

Sometimes when things are going a little bit crazy you want to keep your money under your pillow kind of. I mean, that wouldn’t be the first time that you do that. And I think that Bitcoin is a part of that represents quite a lot of that, the initial idea was that it was for the people, the people’s financial instrument. And I think that, of course, even though a lot of it has changed in the past few years due to regulations. I still hope that this digital currency is the thing of the future, and it gives you this control that it’s your money, it’s right there. I think that brings some sort of security to people and of course the transfer speeds, like if you want to wire money anywhere in the world is there in an instant right so I think that also plays outs into it a lot. But of course, a lot of the infrastructure still has to be built out into the natural world for to really be something big but yeah in the next few years that’s going to be standard I think.


What do you have any tips for anyone who’s doing trading?

Anything that you’re doing when it comes to money, be careful and know what you’re doing, never bet anything that you’re not willing to lose. And one thing is really also like with any financial currency, be careful with scammers, they’re out there, they do exist and we saw 2020 have had a lot of scammers using free on ransomware to attack people. And I think that that was quite unfortunate I mean even Finland got hacked with us a psychological health care organization to bust them one. That was pretty big. And, that’s unfortunate that it happens but the beauty of it is that, Bitcoin and a lot of other cryptocurrencies are trackable their transparency, you can kind of follow the money trail but of course. Now, just be careful what you’re doing and who you’re dealing with in general. That goes for any any currency not only crypto. 

Thank you Sven, for taking the time for this interview and for sharing your story and expertise. We wish you all the best of luck for all your current and future blockchain projects.


For more info visit www.valegachain.com