OpenAI LP Chief Executive Sam Altman is reportedly in advance talks to raise about $100 million in new funding for Worldcoin, an iris-scanning startup that seeks to build a globally distributed cryptocurrency.
According to a report published by the Financial Times on Sunday, citing three people with knowledge of the deal, the company is currently in advanced talks to raise the funds including “new and existing investors.”
Previous investors include Khosla Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund. A March 23 report from The Information claimed the company previously raised $100 million from a token sale in March 2022, which brought the company’s valuation to $3 billion. The company also raised a $25 million in an a16z-led Series A funding round in October 2021, joined by the investors Digital Currency Group, Coinbase Ventures and Multicoin.
Worldcoin was founded in 2019 by Sam Altman and Alex Blania with the objective of creating a global cryptocurrency designed to be distributed to people. As part of its plans, it uses biometric iris-scanning technology to provide identification and free access to its global currency, Worldcoin.
Executives of the company said this approach is because of the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence, which makes it more difficult to tell the difference between actual humans and bots. Iris-scanning technology makes certain that the person signing up for an account is an actual person and ties them to an individual wallet, which also prevents a duplicate on the network.
A secondary reason they gave is also to help provide a form of universal basic income that might help offset the coming job losses that will come due to the rise of AI in job markets.
Users need only use one of Worldcoin’s “Orbs,” a volleyball-sized chrome sphere that will scan their iris and create a Worldcoin wallet, and then dole out free cryptocurrency for them. According to the company’s website, there have already been over 1.7 million signups globally.
Once a user’s identity is confirmed and a wallet created, a user also receives a World ID that can be used for transactions on the Worldcoin network along with the cryptocurrency for various applications. According to the company, users can buy, sell and trade its currency with other users for goods and services, all without revealing their identity.
Although the company said it does not store a copy of a person’s eyes and instead just a digital hash of their iris, critics have been quick to point out the privacy risks of biometric scanning. Edward Snowden, famous for leaking the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs, criticized the storage of those hashes. Should they be stolen, it would provide the attacker a way to compare them to future iris scans.
The company has already been operating its network in beta and said that it plans to roll out its blockchain protocol and begin transacting within six weeks.
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