The biometric digital identity startup Worldcoin is reportedly close to raising $100 million in a new funding round.
The startup was co-founded in 2019 by Sam Altman and Alexander Blania, with its work first coming to light through a Bloomberg article in 2021. Early reporting emphasized the startup’s plans to issue a global ‘basic income’ through a dedicated cryptocurrency, and to use a spherical device described as an ‘orb’ to perform iris scans that would serve to biometrically authenticate the individuals who will receive that basic income.
It has since become clear that Worldcoin’s aims are broader, with the company’s leadership hoping to establish digital IDs for all end users that could have applications ranging from banking to voter verification. These pseudonymous ‘World IDs’ would allow each participants to verify that they are a unique individual without having to share more personal information than is required in a given situation.
Even if the goal may appear far-fetched to some observers, investors are clearly excited. Worldcoin isn’t quite in reach of the $120 million it had reportedly been looking to raise back in February, but it is nevertheless impressive in an environment of relatively high interest rates and a so-called ‘crypto winter’ of subdued excitement about cryptocurrencies.
Fundraising efforts are likely helped by the fact that Worldcoin co-founder Sam Altman is also the head of OpenAI, the company behind the famous ChatGPT chatbot and the DALL-E image generation AI system. The company’s leadership are said to be in talks with both new and existing investors. Prior investors in Worldcoin include Andreessen Horowitz and Coinbase Ventures, among others.
Worldcoin had raised about $3 million in 2021, and then launched a $100 million sale of eponymous cryptocurrency last year that brought the company’s valuation to about $3 billion.
As for its iris-scanning orb, the device is still very much in play. Worldcoin launch a registration tour last month that aims to scan eyeballs across nine cities. In the meantime, interested users can register for Worldcoin with their phone number until they’re in a position to get their eyes scanned.
Sources: Silicon, Insider, Barron’s
May 17, 2023 – by Alex Perala