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In Silicon Valley, indeed, pushing the letter of legality is not only admired but also financially rewarded as the very essence of “disruption.” By the time Ulbricht arrived in San Francisco, Uber and Airbnb had already staked their entire multi-billion-dollar business models on defying existing regulations, from what constituted a hotel room to who could offer a taxi ride.
They were not only in heated battles with various unions but also in litigation with city governments.
People soon started selling Berettas and AK-47 assault rifles, and eventually poisons that could be used to commit suicide.
The technology business has long purported to change the world and make it a better place.
This new generation of Randian founders didn’t ask for permission. Ulbricht’s start-up, which he named the Silk Road, an homage to the ancient trade route of the Han dynasty, was no different.
The Silk Road matched buyers and sellers, who shipped the product right to your door as if it were simply a hardcover book or sweater, all for a small commission.
The Silk Road, like many start-ups, had begun simply enough, in 2011, as a college curiosity.
As a rakishly handsome wanderlust kid from central Texas, Ulbricht had traveled north, away from his small life. Travis Kalanick, or early Facebook investor (and Donald Trump supporter) Peter Thiel, both of whom had been fans of Rand, Ulbricht adhered to a particularly defiant strain of Randian dogma: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”In political-debate clubs and at the Corner Room diner, on campus, the young Ulbricht fixated on the ostensible inconsistencies in how the U. government determined what was, and was not, legal.