Tim Draper, a prominent venture capital investor and strong supporter of digital currencies, would like to see Ross Ulbricht released from his life imprisonment. During a recent interview with a podcast that covers the cryptocurrency markets, Draper explained his feelings about the founder of the Silk Road underground marketplace, whom he thinks of as being a brilliant and extraordinary entrepreneur.

Silk Road was a website accessible only through The Onion Router (TOR) network of anonymous peer-to-peer servers; it provided a market for all kinds of illicit products and services such as controlled substances, firearms, malware, hacking, and even contract killing. Transactions on this market were settled by means of Bitcoin payments, but the site was eventually taken down by United States federal agents who arrested Ulbricht in California.

The seizure of Silk Road included 30,000 Bitcoin tokens that the government auctioned in late 2017 to the highest bidder, who happened to be Draper. This auction purchase has considerably appreciated over the years: News reports of the auction estimated that the 30,000 BTC were worth about $19 million at the time, but they are now worth more than $223 million.

Ulbricht, who operated under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, was given a highly controversial life sentence in a case that featured rogue operatives from the Drug Enforcement Agency faking a contract murder and stealing seized funds. Taking into consideration that the median life expectancy in the United States is 78, the cost of Ulbricht's incarceration will be more than $1.5 million, which will be covered by American taxpayers. Efforts to reduce the sentence on appeal have not been effective.

Blockchain developers who have evaluated the Silk Road case have learned a great deal about how online retail operations should be managed. The illegal marketplace was highly efficient in terms of managing digital wallet transactions, and the transaction processes were discreet enough to prevent tracking by federal agents. Since Ulbricht's arrest, various underground marketplaces, including copycats of Silk Road, have emerged and been taken down only to pop up again; it seems as if online sales of controlled substances using cryptocurrencies for payment will never be stopped completely.