Finland 🇫🇮 is adopting bitcoin and Lightning ⚡ one business at a time thanks to LN-Kassa, a special Lightning consultancy and Breez Point-of-Sale.

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Lightning in the Wild: A Budding Ecosystem in Finland

Many techniques we use every day blow me away. It’s not that animation, calculus or knitting are very impressive in themselves or even very difficult to learn; the miracle is that anybody came up with them in the first place. These all involve huge conceptual leaps, envisioning and realizing a much bigger whole from initially infinitesimal parts, but with a little instruction and training, these techniques become simple, even banal.

My point is that:

learning (i.e. gaining understanding through instruction) is a lot easier than inventing (i.e. gaining understand through inspiration, trial, and error). communities help to disseminate technical knowledge, which is why there are animation studios, knitting circles, and r/calculus (both Newton and Leibniz would have *loved* being know-it-all redditors). This began with somebody smearing soot on the wall of a cave! Then a bunch of people just built on each other’s ideas. (Image: gamingtest.fr)

This edition of Lightning in the Wild exemplifies both points beautifully because it’s not just about a single business or user. In Finland, a country of few people and many vowels, a local ecosystem is growing around a few core businesses, each helping, instructing, and supporting the others. This is the way.

The Center of Gravity: LN-Kassa

Communities often grow around central figures providing instruction — teachers. Aristotle, Siddhartha Gautama, and Linus Torvalds (a Finn!) all fostered the growth of communities based on their ideas. In the case of the growing Lightning community in Finland, the central instructional institution would be LN-Kassa.

The idea behind LN-Kassa is almost too good to be true: it’s a Lightning consultancy specializing in onboarding small businesses. Savor that. Antti, Roni, and Tomi are showing independent businesses how to improve their lives and livelihoods with Lightning, they’re building and strengthening the network for all of us in the process, and they get paid for it.

It’s the kind of thing that gives you hope for humanity.

A few years ago, they heard of the Lightning Network over the local crypto Telegram group. Like true bitcoiners, they learned about the tech and recognized its potential. They, however, took the next step of recognizing the problem (i.e. people don’t know about this yet or how to get started) and devising a solution (i.e. we’ll show them).

They immediately set criteria for how to proceed: they needed a teaching tool with a shallow learning curve, functionality that would provide their (paying) small-business clients with actual value, and a solution that was worth implementing because it respected the social and technological principles behind bitcoin.

Breez is the tool they chose to introduce Lightning to Finland. In their own (few) words as to why they chose Breez:

Easy to use. Clear UI. PoS functionality with product listing and receipt printing. It’s the only product so far that is easy and quick to set up and very user friendly.

(Ed. note: please forgive the brief testimonials. The Finns are neither loquacious, verbose, nor given to sesquipedality.)

And LN-Kassa is playing the long game. Their ultimate goal is to be paid in BTC. And in order to receive BTC, they need a community of clients who own BTC. So helping their clients to accept bitcoin simultaneously helps LN-Kassa to increase the proportion of bitcoin in their own receivables. It’s a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle:

We have the option to get paid with bitcoin. Likely, the numbers are still small because retailers and businesses don’t have any yet. … Currently, we are in the stage of implementing the idea of BTC and Lightning payments with Finland’s trendsetters. If we make it easy enough, maybe it will pass to the majority some day.

Exactly. In this community, the health of each part depends upon the health of all the others. It’s a Lightning ecosystem budding in Greater Helsinki.

The Ecosystem

While it’s true that Lightning is borderless, allowing you to rent a canoe in Victoria, tip a podcaster in Namibia, or buy a basketball jersey in Ulm, one of the many things COVID has taught us all is the value of personal, face-to-face contact. Zoom, Slack, Dropbox and screen sharing are great, but there is no substitute for a pat on the back, a knowing wink, or watching over someone’s shoulder as they work magic on a keyboard.

Personal interaction and the ability to build partnerships and friendships in a common cause are why a local ecosystem is so valuable. At some level, all networks are local. So let’s take a look at the ecosystem emerging around LN-Kassa.

Art of Ground Games

What a cool name! Art of Ground Games is a small business in central Helsinki run by Vann Nikkan. And following the tradition of really cool businesses being first to adopt Lightning, AOGG is a martial-arts studio specializing in Brazilian ju-jitsu. (We welcome podiatrists and house-paint wholesalers too of course.)

The Brazilian variant of a Japanese martial art being taught in the capital of Finland by smiling ninjas. My kinda world. (Image: AOGG)

Vann has some views about Lightning and bitcoin we’ve seen before. For example, he’s looking into providing a discount for customers who pay with Lightning. He also had to learn about the global networks of bitcoin and Lightning first before learning how to use them according to local regulations.

But Vann has a bigger vision. For him, Lightning isn’t a means to supplement his business with bitcoin, but a route to a visionary future:

I really want to build 100% bitcoin companies, where payments, salaries and the company’s own capital is in bitcoin.

Welcome to the satoshi standard. Now we’re talking.

When it came to actually choosing a Lightning app and learning how to use it for AOGG, the local network proved its worth. Tomi from LN-Kassa helped show Vann how to set everything up.

And now that it’s running, Vann is integrating bitcoin into his brand:

Definitely I am trying to make our brand for people who are more or less bitcoiners. It’s a marketing project directed at customers who want to support my kind of actions to promote the bitcoin philosophy.

The local ecosystem helped AOGG, and now AOGG is itself becoming a locus of that ecosystem, attracting others.

Tauko Baari

Where do you go after a long day of teaching Brazilian ju-jitsu or sch00ling n00bs in the ways of Lightning point-of-sale wizardry? Remember: you’re thirsty and want to pay with Lightning, so grab a cold one at Tauko Baari.

Before … and after.

As anyone who’s ever been to a professional conference can tell you, the big presentations are fine and good, but the really meaningful interaction is in the bar afterwards. After all, ecosystems always exist in space; they need locations where they can coalesce.

Antti Karikoski’s Tauko Baari (different Antti) is that location, where people can go to acquire and pass on their knowledge about Lightning. It started with Antti himself:

Tomi told me about the technology for BTC payments in spring 2019. Then towards the end of 2021, he came and suggested that he would find us a practical solution if we were ready to adopt it. Then, a couple of weeks later, he came to show us Breez as a business-ready solution.

So LN-Kassa got the Lightning ball rolling at Tauko Baari, and Antti maintained the momentum. The next step he took was to train his staff, teaching them how to use the Breez PoS mode for actual transactions and issuing certificates for those who did it successfully. Antti says that Breez was as easy to learn and use as their card-payment system and even cash payments. That’s the goal.

It reads: “Keiju Vikkula has succesfully passed the lightning PoS on Breez training for sales clerks”. That’s good, Keiju. You have taken your first step into a larger world.

Another important aspect was showing the administrative staff how to leverage the app’s functions, like compiling a product catalog where the waitstaff could find the drinks and how to export a .csv file of recent sales for reporting purposes. Functions like these have also inspired the owners of Tauko Baari to use Breez PoS in West Bay, their brand new pub nearby, and to show their dad how to use it in the nightclub he owns.

The final step, of course, is paying the knowledge forward, keeping the ecosystem healthy. Like the Bitcoin-im-Turm club in Ulm, the Helsinki Lightning community has regular meetings to trade notes, pick each other’s brains, and enjoy some of Finland’s finest fermented produce.

Breez is an anagram of Beerz. Coincidence?

Vann can learn from Antti, Antti can learn from Vann, they can both ask Tomi for help, and Tomi has a mini, local trade fair where he can share new solutions and meet new clients. Even the best technological networks need social networks to make them work, and these fine Finnish fellows are showing us all how it’s done.

Achieving Dynamic Equilibrium

An important aspect of the ecosystem concept is that individuals don’t really matter. If the fate of a single mosquito or elephant matters, then the ecosystem was unstable to start with.

But on the other hand, there would be no ecosystem without all the individuals. Extinction and ecological collapse happen one individual at a time.

The Lightning ecosystem growing in Helsinki is a good example of a healthy equilibrium. Each individual business is another’s potential client, each one has valuable experiences to share, and the health of the overall ecosystem improves when all individuals thrive.

LN-Kassa is a great example of how Lightning is not just a tool for businesses, but a business in itself. They’re showing others, like AOGG and Tauko Baari, how to get started, which helps to grow LN-Kassa’s own market.

We at Breez are happy just to facilitate this beautiful growth, and we’re very proud that our tool is serving the purposes we’ve built it for.

Tomi Lind, Jussi Tiira, and Antti Karikoski looking into Lightning’s bright future at West Bay, Antti’s brand new, Lightning-enabled pub in Espoo.