Minerva market is one of the newer markets trying to position themselves in this long lasting era controlled by 2 large markets, created around May 2016 offering multisig transaction, this is a short interview we recently conducted with the market admin who wished to introduce his market:
Who are you and what do you do?
There is never an “I” in Minerva. We, the founders (decline to say whether it be 1,2 or more), own and run Minerva collectively. Minerva is a Darknet Marketplace. We run the entire marketplace ourselves and restrict allowing outsiders from becoming an admin/mod.
In this era of over 50 markets where about 2 of them holds most of the business, what made you want to start a market?
We come from a vendor background. We know what sellers would like. Likewise, as a buyer we also know what we would like to see. Considering the profits that markets can be making, we find the level of service to be inadequate. Disputes take forever. Support requests go unheard. The listings are over saturated and load times can be long. We wanted to create a fast (in terms of TOR speed), secure (in both from hacking attempts and data storage in the event a server was to be seized) marketplace that catered to both buyers and sellers in which everyone felt like a winner.
What are the main lessons that you learned from previous failed markets?
Do not take security lightly. Do not allow an outsider to infiltrate the core group. Do not get ahead of oneself and to think you are impenetrable. Do not store btc in an easy to withdraw setup should a hack occur. Minimize the storage of data which equates also to less evidence that can ever be used against anyone involved.
What differentiate your market from the other markets?
For instance, while having a 0% commission currently, when we do implement a commission it will be lower than the standard market rates. Keeping our commission rate low, results in lower prices, a benefit to our users. On the flip side (again having the vendor mentality), we also believe no individual vendor should be responsible for paying more than their fair share. We will cap the amount of commission fees any individual vendor will pay monthly. So once a vendor hits that specified amount, the rest of their sales for the month incur no commissions. Other things that truly set us apart is how we give back to the community. For sellers, we randomly take listings and feature them on the homepage. Our best sellers might receive a month of no commissions or even btc. We will run monthly contests in which the vendor that wins will receive a btc prize. For buyers, we hold giveaways. During a giveaway we basically purchase from a vendor and have them ship to the giveaway winners. Sometimes we will subsidize an item’s price, for example say a balloon is for $100, we will contract with the vendor to lower the price to $30 and every order who has purchased, we will pay the difference. Sometimes we will purchase (or get a sponsor) in bulk of an item and break it down and ship out to those who sign up for a free sample. Minerva is both a buyers and a sellers market, we have everyone’s best interest at heart because we know both sides of the coin. We are the only market who gives back to buyers and sellers alike.
It is assumed that ALL markets will exit scam at some point, do you offer any features to minimize user’s risk?
To help prevent an exit scam we do a multi-sig based system. This is not to say that a multi-sig market can not exit scam. However, we encourage people to test the market at anytime so that even if we attempted to exit scam it would be noticed quickly. How can someone test? Well vendors just have to make a buyers account and buy from themselves. They sign both as buyer and seller and then await the release of funds. If 2-3 days passed and no funds were released then one would know issues are present. We strive to show our users that we are not greedy. With the lower commissions, the giveaways, all the freebie offers etc. we want to create a long term successful market. For all of 2016 we have independently paid all of the server fees and associated costs with running Minerva. Those looking to get a quick hit and run via exit scam wouldn’t invest the time and money that we have. Greed is clearly not in our sights and we try to make that abundantly clear to our users. Minerva seeks to set a new standard for other DNMs to follow.
What type of products are not allowed on your market?
We allow all products on our site with the exception of anything child porn related. We have been discussing whether to keep the weapons section and ultimately we believe we will eventually remove it. With the current state of events and things going on worldwide, firearms may trigger a greater interest from law enforcement.
Is your market an escrow market or a multisig market?
We are a multi-sig based market. We strongly recommend users don’t put their trust and money into an escrow based market. With escrow based, you are depositing your funds to the market. The market now has your btc and can do whatever they would like with it and simply put an account balance that doesn’t truly exist. Most exit scams you will see if not all are from escrow based markets. We wanted to be different. You pay for your order as you place an order. This way you get the most up to date btc pricing and also send only what is needed for your order.
Do you offer any security features to help protect the users from phishing / scams?
We do have 2 factor authentication which we recommend users to use. As always we recommend users to be diligent and make sure they are on the real site. Our onion address can always be found on reddit’s DNM Superlist as well as Deep Dot Web’s list of sites. We are also listed on DNStats.net so please do verify, from 2 of the listed sources you have the right web url. By checking 2 of the sites you wont be subjected to risk should one have had been hacked. Our site is also built completely from scratch, we are not using the same php template that several markets have and just change the color scheme and logos. So you can also differentiate that way from our unique look.
After Ross’s life sentence, what (in your opinion) are the main things one need to consider when deciding to start a new market?
One must really come to understand the risks involved. This is not a game, this is your life, and if taken lightly you can end up in the same situation as DPR. Our decision to remove the weapons category is because of the risks it carries. In a time with global terror becoming an increasing problem, as well as mass shootings, we do not want to be the focus of multi-agencies. When it comes to lives being lost and/or children being victimized, governments worldwide would seek to bring those responsible to justice. We opt to side step that wrecking ball. As operators of the marketplace, we are liable for what occurs on and also off the marketplace should the items procured have come from Minerva. So an understanding of the law, and the real life risks involved should always be taken into consideration. Secrecy becomes second nature, one must never slip up and mention the connection because one slip can earn you a life sentence. We keep all data encrypted so that in the event the server was seized, the database would hold nothing useful.
Silk Road’s data is still being analyzed and used to help target vendors to this day. So keeping the data limited and encrypted is a must have. Furthermore we don’t keep unnecessary data. All order logs etc are deleted after a set time. There’s been a lot of brainstorming of good ideas, bad ideas, features, things to add or remove that goes on back and forth. Those you venture down this path with, you must be sure that you know them well to the point that if they were compromised you would be able to tell. We can’t give a list of things that should be considered as that list would be so vast. Opening a DNM is not an easy undertaking, from getting developers, to getting established and setup securely is a time consuming and mentally draining process. One wrong step is all it takes to bring on a life changing end.
Any security/OPSEC advice you want to give to the user?
All users should know how to use PGP and make use of it. Vendors should also encrypt their computers so that no records of their activity can be easily obtained. Buyers should be diligent in their research and know who they are buying from. Your security is your responsibility, don’t get yourself in a jam because you think someone else is being secure. Trust no one. Just because you bought from a vendor today doesn’t mean he hasn’t been compromised in the future.
Anything else you want to add to the readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read a bit about us and our market. We hope you give us a try and see the Minerva experience. We really believe buyers deserve more from the markets out there. Markets are raking in profits and not giving back to the community that sustains them. We hope to set an example that all DNM will come to follow. In time we will get bigger and be able to do more. Any feedback you would like to give us, any questions or concerns feel free to email us at: [email protected] you can find our PGP key at: http://pgp.mit.edu/pks/lookup?op=getsearch=0x815799B5A9B86768