Ross Ulbricht is a former dark net operator who is currently in prison for life after creating and administering the Silk Road, an online marketplace where over a billion dollars worth of illegal goods/services were exchanged.
Transactions on Silk Road were completed using Bitcoin for the sake of anonymity. For that reason, Ulbricht is credited with developing one of the first and largest platforms that used cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange. The Silk Road was a pioneering project that took advantage of the fundamental decentralized properties of Bitcoin.
Ulbricht’s Motivation to Create Silk Road
The Silk Road was a product of Ulbricht’s desire to make a successful startup coupled with his libertarian political views. Ross wanted to build a truly free market that was outside the reach of government entities. On his Linked-In profile, Ulbricht wrote “I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force,” claiming this description to be for an online multiplayer role-playing game.
Prior to the Silk Road scandal, Ulbricht had no history of criminal activity. He was a college graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from UT and a Master’s in Materials Science/Engineering from Penn State.
A couple of years after graduating, Ulbricht found himself uninspired with traditional employment and wanted to become an entrepreneur. It’s worth noting that Ross also had a growing interest in libertarian economic theories during those years as well. After limited business success from his existing ventures, Ross began working on his online superstore in 2010 as a side project.
By 2011 the Silk Road was a fully functional platform where users could buy/sell goods and services both legal and illegal, but mostly illegal. A user entering the Silk Road site could expect to immediately see listings for illegals such as drugs or counterfeit money.