I bumped into Markku Mehtälä at one of the startup events in the capital region of Finland when he first explained me the problem they’re trying to solve. It’s a very current one as well with more and more online services and accounts requiring users to remember their credentials, not to mention games and other entertainment destinations. It’s definitely an interesting approach and could prove useful, especially among consumers who get the ease of use and hassle-free approach to signing in. At the bottom of the interview is a short video explaining the concept. Markku Mehtälä is the founder and CEO of Mepin.
ArcticStartup (AS): What is Mepin and the story behind it?
Markku Mehtälä (MM): Mepin is a new way to enjoy Internet without the hassle caused by insecure usernames and passwords. Passwords, which we all hate, were first used in computer systems in 1961, some 50 years ago. Computing technology has skyrocketed in 50 years and the Internet has boomed, yet we the users still have to live with stupid usernames, passwords, mother’s maiden name questions and CAPTCHA systems. So the idea for Mepin was born out of our own frustration with usernames and passwords.
Another trigger that got us started with Mepin was that with our good knowledge of the online security solutions out in the market, we saw that the existing ways to try to solve the inefficiencies of usernames and passwords are just generating more and more burden for us consumers.
Hence we saw an opportunity to think and implement online security from a totally different perspective, making things actually easier for the users rather than adding more complexities on top of the old stuff.
AS: Why is there a problem with current ways to sign in to services?
MM: For us consumers the imminent problem is about how to manage the access and all the credentials we have for various online services we use. The usual way to cope with this is to use one and the same simple password in many services, which then generates many other serious problems when one of the services or accounts is eventually hacked or the password is otherwise exposed or stolen. Another related problem is also that we simply forget which services we have registered with, leaving our data behind.
For service providers usernames and passwords are a hidden problem in the beginning. Many users just don’t want to create yet another credential pair, hence they don’t even try the new services; or they register but pretty soon forget the service. With Mepin the registration can be one click and the user never forgets the service because it’s shown in her account list until she deletes it. And by the way, Mepin is built to protect users’ privacy and also anonymity if they want, so the users don’t have to expose all of their life to a new service as when using something like Facebook Connect.
Then when a service becomes popular the problems are just growing when phishing and various other attacks starts to appear. This is especially a pain for gaming sites where there are virtual goods or other assets tempting the hackers. The existing security solutions to protect the services and users are pretty expensive, Mepin is not.
AS: How did you come up with the solution/Mepin?
MM: Our team has long experience from security technologies as well as Internet and mobile services. The team members have been involved in building large scale DRM and authentication solutions around the world, from Finnish national electronic identity card (HST kortti in Finnish) to a content security solution for the Beijing Olympics 2008 to name a couple. So the basis of the solution came from our Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and cryptography knowledge, which we then brainstormed and packaged into a intuitive user friendly service.
AS: You’ve launched it already, how did that go?
MM: We started to build the company for the global market right from the beginning, so naturally we also chose a ‘global’ event to launch the service. We had the pleasure of participating in TechCrunch Disrupt New York City a few weeks ago, where we introduced the service. Great event, although challenging to get noticed from among the hundred of other startups there. Got us good service provider and investor leads.
AS: What are you doing with Mepin this year? Where will you go with it?
MM: At the moment we are refining the service and working towards signing some major international service provider partners. We will also be launching a USB key, which will be even more easier to use than the iPhone/iPad app out now. In addition we are exploring a couple of other interesting concepts with the aim of making the service more rewarding for the consumers while helping service providers engage with their customers more tightly. We are planning to announce something new in September :-).