Finnish Firm Transforms Web Kiosks into Bitcoin ATMs

A father and son team are converting web kiosks to enable customers to purchase bitcoin.

Mar 12, 2014 at 11:53 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 10:31 a.m. UTC

Bitcoin ATMs are on the march across the globe, with machines recently being launched in Dublin and London.

In addition to the well-known manufacturers like Robocoin and Lamassu, however, other companies are trying to hop on the ATM bandwagon, including one Finnish company that’s taking a slightly different approach.

, founded in 2001, is a family business based in Helsinki. The small company was started by father and son team Timo and Mika Reinikainen in 2001 and operates web kiosks around Finland.

Now, though, they’re converting them to enable bitcoin purchases under a new company, Hotbutler.com, part-owned by Mika and backed by American capital from unnamed investors.

Following the money

So far, four kiosks in Helsinki are running a beta version of Hotbutler.com’s web app, which streamlines the bitcoin-buying process.

The kiosks (Mika rejects the term ‘ATM’) are of the sort you find in airports all over the world – they were originally places to surf the web, make VoIP calls and send emails. That business model changed when Mika realised the potential for profit in bitcoin:

“When we saw figures from Robocoin ATMs in Vancouver, the one million dollar turnover in one month, we decided to concentrate on bitcoin.”

At the moment the duo are experimenting. Depending on how the first month’s trading pans out, they plan on launching the app on at least 10 more kiosks. The plan is to stick to bitcoin for at least six months, but after that other cryptocurrencies may be added, starting with litecoin.

Ideally, said Mika, they want to install the app on the 16 kiosks they operate in Helsinki’s international airport, but airport officials have so far been reluctant:

“The problem is that the officials in charge don't really understand bitcoin. So far they have been saying 'no' just to be on the safe side. It is a lot of work to educate and persuade people.”

Reluctant spokesman

It’s a battle that bitcoiners all over the world have been fighting. Like in other countries, the Finnish central bank has warned consumers of the perceived risks with using bitcoin: “they just keep saying the same thing over and over again,” said Mika.

The coverage of bitcoin in the popular press has been on a par with that in the UK and US, he said. And as the company behind Finland’s first bitcoin ATMs, he finds himself having to account for all of bitcoin’s sins:

“It is funny how I have to defend bitcoin itself, instead of defending our business. [...] if you get involved with bitcoin you automatically become a spokesman for bitcoin whether you like it or not.”

Growing pains

The company is a joint venture between “Finnish and American associates”, whom Mika declined to name just yet. Hotbutler.com might acquire Deltacom, he said, and he is waiting until all of the details are ironed out.

Mika is a part-owner of Hotbutler.com, but said that his American partners are the “people with the capital”.

Mika said he is unconcerned by the recent turbulence in the bitcoin world, comparing the current situation with the “growing pains” of the web in the '90s, culminating in the bursting of the dotcom bubble:

“People actually thought that the internet would no long exist tomorrow because so many internet-related companies went belly up. Now I can see the same paranoia with bitcoin.”
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