Startup Sabr.io ‘Could Have Caught Silk Road Founder in Days’

By August 13, 2015Bitcoin Business
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Monitoring transactions
Monitoring transactions

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

Sabr.io, one of 42 companies unveiled at 500 Startups' demo day in San Francisco this Tuesday, told a crowd of investors it could have shortened official investigations into the illicit marketplace, which began in 2011, by years.

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 Sabr.io'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 Sabr.io, 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."

Sabr.io'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

Tuesday's event, 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. According to AngelList, the startup raised its first $75,000 round from the Digital Currency Group (DCG), Barry Silbert's bitcoin seed fund. Alongside 500 Startups, the DCG also contributed to its second round prior to the demo day.

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, Bonafide.io, Coinalytics, Neuroware and Monetsu who each received $100,000 as part of Batch 9.

Sabr.io and the Digital Currency Council were the two blockchain-related startups in its most recent cohort.

Monitoring transactions image via Shutterstock

Sabr.io , one of 42 companies unveiled at 500 Startups’ demo day in San Francisco this Tuesday, told a crowd of investors it could have shortened official investigations into the illicit marketplace, which began in 2011 , by years.

The platform, which integrates data from public and proprietary sources, claims […]

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