OpenAI’s Sam Altman has secured around $100mn of funding to fund his plan to create Worldcoin – a global secure cryptocurrency based on iris scanning technology. This would be an unusual bright spot in a sector that has had a difficult year.
Three people familiar with the matter have confirmed that Worldcoin has advanced discussions to raise fresh funds as it prepares for its launch in a few weeks.
One of the people said that there are both existing and new investors in the group. Khosla Ventures, Andreessen-Horowitz’s Crypto Fund, FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried and internet entrepreneur Reid Hoffman were all previous investors.
Altman and Alex Blania founded Worldcoin in 2019. The company is not as well-known as OpenAI, which created ChatGPT and struck a multi-billion dollar deal with Microsoft in the first half of this year.
It has big ambitions. The company plans to use eyeball scanning technology to create an international identification system that could be used for free access to Worldcoin, its own global currency.
The Information, a tech publication, reported that a $100mn token auction held early last year valued total token supply at $3bn.
Crypto tokens and projects suffered a brutal 12 months. The crash of Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency Exchange FTX, which occurred in November of last year, accelerated the steep decline in tokens and triggered a wave crypto company failures.
FTX received backing from Sequoia Capital’s venture capital fund, Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global Management, and Thoma Bravo. The scandal surrounding Bankman-Fried and its implosion led many blue-chip funds not to invest in this sector.
It’s a crypto-winter, a bear market. One of those with knowledge of the project said that it was remarkable to see this much investment in a project of this type.
Worldcoin executives have said that their approach addresses two issues raised by artificial intelligence’s increasing sophistication: distinguishing humans from bots and providing a universal basic income to offset the job losses due to AI.
The company says that the orb is the key to its plans. It “uses biometric iris data to establish an individual’s unique personhood and then creates an electronic World ID which can be used pseudonymously for a variety of everyday uses without revealing an individual’s identity.”
The company stated that users can get free Worldcoins after proving their identity.
Worldcoin has been criticized on several issues, but most importantly that biometric scanning is a privacy risk. In a section on its website dedicated specifically to answering concerns about the orb, the company states that it will not store the iris scans of users and that the device won’t hurt their eyes.
After operating in beta for six weeks, the company will now begin recording transactions and roll out the blockchain protocol.
Worldcoin has declined to comment about the fundraising.