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Silk Road had a founder who truly believed that with the right software, one could both do well and do good. At first, Ulbricht called himself simply "Silk Road," but later he would go by “Dread Pirate Roberts,” or DPR. He and his acolytes believed they were making the world a better, less harmful, more free place, and that they could put an end to the violence that marred so much of the drug trade.

Silk Road didn't have buyers and sellers, it had a "community." Users in the inner circle described Silk Road not as a lucrative business—which of course it was—but as a "movement." Dread Pirate Roberts spoke directly to his users in hundreds of posts, mostly on administrative issues, but he also got emotional. He made time to run a libertarian book club on the site.

Those ideals posed no conflict with the goal of getting rich. DPR and his inner circle viewed government as a cumbersome obstacle, and in that, DPR's ideas weren't so different from what many other Valley CEOs believe, some more privately than others.

Silk Road didn't find or procure drugs itself. The goal was to be a superbly effective "platform," linking up buyers and sellers, and then taking a cut of each transaction. Silk Road took around 10 percent of many sales, but often took smaller commissions. All told, the commission structure proved similar to eBay’s own—an incredible deal when compared to real-world black markets...

Sunk: How Ross Ulbricht ended up in prison for life | Ars Technica

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