A start-up founded by OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman is on track to secure $100 million (£80m) for its vision of providing free crypto tokens to users that are secured by iris scans and other forms of biometric identity information.

The Worldcoin project launched an initial version of its World App earlier this month and says it has more than 1.6 million users through its beta-testing programme.

The start-up has an ambitious vision of creating a decentralised “World ID” that is authenticated by retinal and body scans carried out by a spherical device it calls an Orb – something that has attracted criticism over potential privacy issues.

A key part of the firm’s vision is to give away free cryptocurrency to those who take part in the biometric identity programme, ultimately establishing a form of “universal basic income” to offset the potential job losses created by artificial intelligence.

Image credit: Worldcoin

Investment

The company received $3m in investment in 2021 and carried out an initial $100m coin sale early last year that valued its supply of tokens at $3bn, according to tech publication the Information.

Now it is near to raising another $100m to fund its ongoing launch and expansion plans, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The funding is “remarkable for a project in this space” due to the “crypto winter” currently affecting digital assets, one of the people with knowledge of the fundraising told the newspaper.

The funding round reportedly includes existing and new investors. Previous investors include Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and internet entrepreneur Reid Hoffman.

Image credit: Worldcoin

Biometric identity

Altman and Alex Blania founded Worldcoin in 2019, but the firm has to date kept a far lower profile than OpenAI, the company that launched ChatGPT publicly last autumn and sealed a multibillion-dollar deal with Microsoft earlier this year.

Once users have privately established their identity using the Orb, they can use their World ID via the World App to log into websites and maintain privacy-protecting pseudonyms online, with the app providing assurance that they are a real person and not an AI-powered bot.

The Orb  “uses iris biometrics to establish an individual’s unique personhood, then creates a digital World ID that can be used pseudonymously in a wide variety of everyday applications without revealing the user’s identity”, the company says on its website.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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