Sam Altman’s Worldcoin targets sovereign funds for latest raise as OpenAI booms

Quick Take

  • Worldcoin, the eyeball-scanning crypto project slated to launch in the new few months, is seeking a lead investor for a fresh round of financing.
  • It’s raising up to $120 million at a valuation of $3 billion, according to one person with knowledge of the matter.

Worldcoin, the eyeball-scanning crypto startup founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, is on the hunt for a lead investor for its latest round of financing.

The startup is in discussions with deep-pocketed investors, including sovereign wealth funds, about leading another fundraise, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. It’s looking to raise up to $120 million at a valuation of $3 billion — the same valuation it raised at last year — according to one of those people. The round will be structured as a sale of equity plus token warrants, they added.

Worldcoin didn't respond to a request for comment. 

The raise comes amid the spectacular success of ChaptGPT, the natural language interface developed by another Altman endeavor, OpenAI. The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 5 that OpenAI had held talks with investors about a share sale that would value it at $29 billion. Microsoft is weighing a $10 billion investment in the company.

Altman, who in addition to founding OpenAI was previously president of the startup accelerator Y Combinator, co-founded Worldcoin in 2020. The startup initially hoped that its cryptocurrency, of the same name, would become the global infrastructure for universal basic income. Worldcoin’s model involves using so-called Orbs to scan a person’s iris for “proof of personhood,” as Altman has previously put it in interviews.


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Eyeball-scanning technology

Upon unveiling the Orb technology in October 2021, the startup had already secured a $1 billion valuation thanks to a $25 million fundraise involving Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Coinbase Ventures, Digital Currency Group and angel investors including Sam Bankman-Fried, the now-disgraced CEO of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX.

The eyeball-scanning technology drew criticism from privacy advocates such as Edward Snowden. But Altman said at the time that the biometric information gathered by Worldcoin is neither stored nor tied to a person’s identity. Worldcoin raised another $100 million from Khosla Ventures and a16z in March 2022 at a valuation of $3 billion, according to The Information.

The startup’s goal is to distribute its token — which is due to launch in the first half of this year — to as many people around the world as possible. It has close to 1.2 million sign-ups to date, according to its website.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Ryan Weeks is deals editor at the The Block, focused on fundraising, M&A and institutional trends in the crypto space, among other things. He is particularly interested in investigative work — so please send tips! Ryan previously worked at Financial News, Dow Jones as a fintech correspondent in London. Prior to that, he wrote for several different publications, including Sifted, AltFi and Wired. Beyond journalism, Ryan is a keen reader and writer. He enjoys all things active, especially running, rugby, climbing and tennis.


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