‘Helsinki Tackles an Even Bigger Bird’ by Kristoffer Lawson, Co founder of Holvi (Europe’s 100 Hottest Startups,Wired Nov 13)

Finland has rightfully collected heavy buzz for its gaming industry. The disruptive effects of the ever-expanding Angry Birds machine, and the groundbreaking mobile gaming attack by Supercell has suddenly, and finally, made even the skeptics realise that, yes, gaming is a real business and that the level of talent in Finland is shockingly good. It has been ignored for much too long.

Gaming is not alone in being heavily impacted by this odd, Nordic country. Linux, another Finnish creation, powers more computers (I’m including phones here) than any other operating system kernel in the world. Nokia, before its recent downfall, defined, and largely created, the explosion of mobile.

So the thought occurs: which industry should next be prepared to ward off a relentless Finnish technological onslaught? There is an industry that is not only incredibly old-fashioned, from a technology standpoint, but also larger than both the gaming, and mobile phone industries, combined. It is banking, and in fact it is not only larger, but larger by a whole order of a magnitude. Before the crisis, the industry was enjoying global profits of close to a trillion, never mind revenue.

Now there would be little room for disruption if a market had already perfected its art. If that had been the case, we would never have felt the desire to build Holvi. It was, however, the realisation that running our projects was more difficult than made sense that led us to the conclusion: we need a new type of banking service.

Work and play has been rapidly changing into collaborative, project-oriented activities. The separation between personal and professional is blurred to the point that being a freelancer, or a rapid-fire independent team, is increasingly the norm, rather than the exception. But traditional banks are, at their fundamental core, a poor match for this. Their business model is geared for investing funds (ie. collecting extra wealth, giving out loans), rather than keeping money moving. It was not the original intention, but banks have, almost grudgingly, become the thread of our everyday financial lives. Yet the bulk of entrepreneurial, and even individual activity, is formed from two things: storing money and making payments.

If we take that as the premise of what a financial institution’s offering could be, we arrive at a very different service than what traditional banks offer, particularly in this new project-oriented, collaborative environment. It is a service that focuses on receiving payments, sharing, enabling commerce and truly understanding what is going on – without cumbersome, and separate, bookkeeping. It is a service with APIs and that connects an ecosystem, rather than dishes out a monolithic offering. That is what we at Holvi have been building.

This change will not happen overnight. It is a space that is heavily regulated and that maintains a level of natural resistance to change (we are talking about people’s money). It will require investors to have patience, grit and balls. But with enough persistence we can arrive at something truly profound: the rewriting of the fabric of society itself.

HOLVI logo

Thank you to Kristoffer. To find out more about Holvi, visit their website at

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