Silkkitie Market – One of the smaller markets which started as a local market for Finland and later turned international just celebrated two years of operation and was rebranded as “Valhalla“, we have conducted an interview with “Kapteeni”, the market admin, which you can find below.
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I'm sending my interview about Silkkitie/Valhalla to Deepdotweb in middle of October 2015.
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Can you tell us how Silkkitie started?
Silkkitie was founded due to many reasons. Most notably because of the Finnish Customs. It was already very effective but as the darknet markets got more popular, became also the Finnish Customs too aware of this and more effective on searching drugs and other illegal things that darknet markets have usually listed. This was of course direct result from all the media attention original Silk Road and its descendants had when they got shut down.
Probably law enforcement agencies also shared information about amounts of drugs that are being shipped from everywhere around the world in regular mail. Therefore ordering from other countries became increasingly risky for Finnish clients. At this point it was clear that we needed our own market. Since the founding of Silkkitie have the methods of vendors developed a lot and ordering from abroad has became slightly safer since there are vendors who use every method possible to prevent their shipments from getting caught.
Other reasons, I could mention the poor state of street markets. You have to mix with people you really don’t want to, quality of the products is poor, impurities are common and some people just don’t care if they sell product that they claim is something else. And with this kind of “business men” there is always the risk of violence. I knew that there are responsible and smart people too and they needed channel to meet with clients. There is no risk of violence and if you sell something that is not what you claim, people can avoid this, warn each other and seek vendors with good reputation.
Why did you choose to rebrand Silkkitie as Valhalla?
There are a few reasons. The burden in the old name referencing to already closed markets might not create so positive associations. We had to get rid of that burden since we are not responsible for what happened to those markets. Silkkitie was good name for domestic market and it will stay for Finnish customers because they have gotten used to it. For audience abroad the old name is hard both to enunciate and to remember. The new one describes us well, referencing to the Nordic mythology as something that is resilient as hell.
It used to be Finnish only than turned English, what was the reason for that?
I just got tired of watching market after another doing exit scams and greedy admins trying to steal as much as they can. Silkkitie was working very smoothly and as the time passed I understood that offering this secure marketplace to the foreign crowd was inevitable.
There were lots of people using markets with no-good admins and being scared of the next exit scam.
Silkkitie was success with Finnish clients so people actually knew it had some history and just did not appear over night as a huge international marketplace. This probably created trust towards Silkkitie.
Why did you turn it into an invite-only market?
Mainly for two reasons; first one being the control of growth. Silkkitie has grown quickly over the past year and since going international. It is essential that we keep it under control and prevent it from growing so fast that it gets too hard to control and work load of moderators keeps in check too.
Second reason is that when the users started asking how to promote this market and maybe earn some money. My previous way was paying individuals for painting graffiti or distributing stickers. And that’s fine and it was good for a domestic marketplace. When Silkkitie went international I needed a different approach, that was creating reward system for inviting users and vendors that is effective, simple to control and far easier for monitoring results. It also is equal for all and rewarding for getting active users is far more better than graffiti campaigns which results are not known by anyone.
How does it feel to run the ~second or third longest running market?
I feel very humble for all the responsibility I have. My main concern has always been the security of the users, their anonymity and their earnings. Since it has been a major factor in keeping this market running I am very thankful for all those who have consulted me with the security issues and for all those researchers who have taken part in the bug bounty program. Hopefully Valhalla/Silkkitie will continue on its steady and long-running road in the future!
What features does Silkkitie currently offer that are more than other markets?
Apart from world class security and keeping users safe, a simple user interface and fast loading without downtimes are important. We constantly ask feedback from the vendors and their clients, using this feedback new functions are being developed when there is need for them.
Also we offer multisig payments that are made very easy and user friendly. It’s simple to filter by shipping country and we support pricing with all major currencies. Auctioning your products is also something little different. Vendors will get fair price for their product and buyers get some excitement during the auction.
What are the plans for the future?
Keeping the site online, secure and along with the progress and updated with everything new that is being developed that might help us. Also developing support more effective, so that every message is being replied during the same day. Opening new language versions is also coming, so that users will get service with their native languages. First new language in the progress will be Norwegian because there has been a big rush of Norwegian vendors and buyers to our marketplace.
Can you share some interesting insights as a veteran market admin?
Being in this scene during this time when darknet markets become out of the dark little bit and witness the change of generations in users and admins has been very interesting. There has been massive growth and of course it has also brought a lot of dishonest people as both users and admins.
When darknet markets were just for those who knew where to seek and what to seek, the scene seemed to be much more “honest” and things were based on mutual trust. Of course this change has speeded up the development of technologies and ways to prevent dishonest people from taking advantage of people’s trust. This is a good thing, there has always been those who will seek ways to take what is not theirs so all the systems that protect the people’s investments is good, we must not be too naive.
Any tips to the users to keep them safer?
Remember to encrypt your computers and deny everything if you get a letter from law enforcement. Buying coins is totally legal, it’s not a crime and does not prove anything at all. PGP encryption you can learn easily from a variety of how-tos and crypting your shipping address you can do already with your own computer. Use more multisig so your coins will stay safe!
What do you think about the other markets who are currently operating, any market admins you think that are doing good work? (or bad work)
I only have respect for admins of three marketplaces: they are Ross Ulbricht from SR1 for his ideology and sacrifice, Backopy from BMR for his opsec and honesty, and also the admins of Agora for their opsec and technology choices.
Do you think we will see decentralization anytime soon?
Not soon but this will be the inevitable development before the next decade. In this development multisig will be the first step. I’m actively observing development on this front, so Valhalla will always be the first marketplace which takes the decentralized technology in use. This of course when it is ready and secure enough for use.
With the increase of interest around the DNM’s do you feel the shift in the demographic of people who are using DNM’s?
There has been a big change in the user demographics. It is no longer a thing for computer geeks after installing Tor Browser has became a lot easier, which makes it easier for the normal people to find and access us without any advanced computer skills. Media has at least tried to make darknet more known to the public. Even though they try to demonize it, the word has spread also because of it. Single biggest change in the user demographics has been the body builders who buy their supplements from DNM’s for better and more constant quality.
Anything else interesting you want to share with the readers?
Stay tuned in, Valhalla will be along with all the progress, there will be interesting times ahead as we continue on the road to success and evolve with the new technology.