Startup is Helping to Catch Bitcoin's Criminals

A new blockchain startup has claimed its software could have tracked down Silk Road mastermind Dread Pirate Roberts in a matter of days.

AccessTimeIconAug 13, 2015 at 10:05 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:49 a.m. UTC

A new blockchain startup has claimed its software could help track down criminals faster and cheaper than ever.

, one of 42 companies unveiled at 500 Startups' demo day in San Francisco this Tuesday, aims to shave valuable time off investigations into outfits such as illicit marketplace Silk Road.

The platform, which integrates data from public and proprietary sources, claims to provide law enforcement with intel on digital currencies that's "otherwise inaccessible".

It's unclear exactly what this entails, with CEO David Berger telling CoinDesk he was unable to disclose further details about's technology, given the "sensitive nature" of the firm's work.

What is clear however, is that the service is identifying and locating illegal activity happening on blockchains – and a number of agencies are already on board. Berger said:

"Law enforcement has been and continues to be our partner in the development of this technology. They've shared their needs with us and we're building solutions to meet those needs. Our technology enables them to do their very important work."

Blind spot

Although the wealth of successful prosecutions for bitcoin-related crimes highlight that digital currencies aren't above the law, it's an area that still requires highly specific investigative skills, which may be out of reach for smaller agencies.

Besides, a number of bitcoin firms, including Chainalysis and London-based custodian Elliptic, are creating whitelabel 'blockchain explorers' designed to bridge this knowledge gap.

Not everyone is happy, however. Companies have come under scrutiny from bitcoin's pro-privacy factions for offering law enforcement the tools to monitor and 'unmask' transactions.

Should running tests on an open, peer-to-peer network such as bitcoin require consent? Others in the space say 'no'. They see solutions like these as a crucial step towards legitimacy and interoperability for cryptocurrencies more broadly.

Berger said:

"While some have suggested regulatory solutions, we were proud to present a technology-based solution that will lessen the need for regulation."'s website notes that the utility of blockchain can only achieve further growth within the bounds of the law.

"I am excited about the future of bitcoin and am determined not to let it be hijacked by criminals. I have no qualms about helping to put child pornographers, terrorists and arms dealers behind bars," Berger added.

500 Startups

, the climax to four months of intensive mentoring as the Silicon Valley accelerator's 13th batch, was a "terrific experience", Berger said.

"We were overwhelmed by interest from the investors in attendance. I think the investors realise, as do we, that illicit use of digital currencies is a big problem for society."

Investors have backed this up with cash, too. Alongside 500 Startups and the Digital Currency Group (DCG), Barry Silbert's bitcoin seed fund, the company has raised over $1m from Launch Capital, New Fund and Silicon Badia, among others.

Founded in 2010, 500 Startups provides between $10,000 to $250,000 in seed funding to early-stage startups. Since bringing on ex-MySpace VP Sean Percival as a venture partner to specialise in bitcoin, the incubator has moved to mentor the blockchain space.

Previous bitcoin alums include GoGoCoin,, Coinalytics, Neuroware and Monetsu who each received $100,000 as part of Batch 9. and the Digital Currency Council were the two blockchain-related startups in its most recent cohort.

Monitoring transactions image via Shutterstock

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that claimed its software could have tracked down Silk Road mastermind Dread Pirate Roberts in a matter of days. Berger confirmed this was misreported from the event, and never stated by the company itself.


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