A CRYPTO startup co-founded by OpenAI chief executive officer Sam Altman has raised new funding to further its mission of providing a digital ID for everyone on the planet.
Tools for Humanity, the company behind the cryptocurrency project Worldcoin, said on Thursday (May 25) that it had raised US$115 million from investors. The startup aims to create separate IDs for every living person in part by scanning their eyes. The scanning device is a small orb that reads a user’s irises, creating unique digital identities based on blockchain.
Blockchain Capital led the Series C funding round, which also included Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto team, as well as Bain Capital Crypto and Distributed Global.
Tools for Humanity co-founder and CEO Alex Blania declined to provide its valuation in an interview. He said that the new funding will be used for product expansion and hiring new employees to grow the startup’s 150-person team. The Financial Times previously reported some details of the deal.
The funding round signals the seriousness of the venture, Blania said. “When we started talking about it three years ago, people really made jokes about us, like we read too many sci-fi books, and that’s now changed,” he said.
The company’s identity technology will be important in a world where artificial intelligence (AI) raises new questions of what’s human and what’s not on the Internet, Blania said. It’s also an example of the overlap between the crypto and AI industries.
“The initial motivation was all around how can we build infrastructure in a world in which AI is becoming increasingly powerful,” he said.
Where funding for most crypto startups has dried up, Tools for Humanity is a notable exception. Blania stressed that blockchain technology ensures that the Worldcoin project, which has a Worldcoin token, is decentralised in nature. He also said that Worldcoin, which has already registered almost 2 million people, could be useful in the distribution of a universal basic income, since it combines an economic layer with an identity system.
In theory, a universal basic income could be particularly useful in a world where AI destroys a lot of jobs.
The Worldcoin project has faced some setbacks so far. It was forced to halt operations in at least seven countries last year due to logistical issues and generated concerns over privacy and data. BLOOMBERG