It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie — metallic orbs that scan people’s eyes to pay them in digital currency.
That’s what tech investor Sam Altman has been working on for his new start-up, a company called Worldcoin. Launched out of “stealth” on Thursday, Worldcoin promises to hand out free cryptocurrency to people who verify their accounts by taking an iris scan.
Worldcoin says it’s already attracted $25 million in funding from Silicon Valley investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase and billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, giving the firm a $1 billion valuation.
Altman, CEO of artificial intelligence group OpenAI and former president of start-up accelerator Y Combinator, co-founded the company with theoretical physics student Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, a former investment associate at Bridgewater Associates.
The idea seems outlandish at first. Free money? And all I need to do is have my eyes scanned? It sounds too good to be true.
However, Worldcoin’s founders say it’s about expanding the reach of cryptocurrencies — and financial services more broadly — to the masses. Less than 3% of the global population are crypto users, according to virtual currency exchange Crypto.com.
“Cryptocurrency is a very powerful thing,” Blania, Worldcoin’s CEO, told CNBC. “It will widen the boundaries of the economy in general and give many people access.”