Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has amassed billions of dollars in venture capital funding through the success of his chatbot, ChatGPT. Now, his latest venture, Worldcoin, is making waves as it approaches $100 million in funding, according to insiders familiar with the matter as reported by the Financial Times.

Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project backed by Altman, aims to encourage billions of people to verify their humanity by scanning their irises. The funding for the project includes both new and existing investors. Notable supporters include a16z crypto (the venture arm of Coinbase), Khosla Ventures, and Sam Bankman-Fried, the controversial founder of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

Representatives for Worldcoin declined to comment on the funding deal, keeping the specifics undisclosed. Nevertheless, the news of substantial funding comes as a glimmer of hope in a challenging year for crypto investments. Crunchbase reports a significant decline in venture funding for Web3 startups, dropping from $9.1 billion in the first quarter of 2022 to $1.7 billion in 2023, marking an 82% year-over-year decrease.

The concept for Worldcoin emerged in June 2021 under the umbrella company Tools for Humanity. The project aims to address the looming threat of a robot-dominated future that Altman’s OpenAI has made all too real. In a world increasingly populated by advanced artificial intelligence, the challenge is distinguishing humans from machines. Worldcoin’s team, composed of Ph.D. holders and experienced software engineers, proposes using iris scanning as a means of proving “humanness.” To incentivize participation, Worldcoin plans to distribute its cryptocurrency, also called Worldcoin, to individuals who undergo the iris-scanning process. In a future where AI has replaced many jobs, Worldcoin tokens could serve as a form of universal basic income.

Worldcoin has faced scrutiny due to its trials of iris-scanning technology in developing countries. Reports of these trials, first published by BuzzFeed News and MIT Technology Review, drew criticism, to which the company responded by asserting that they were unfair. Despite the controversy, Worldcoin has continued preparations for a public launch expected in the first half of 2023. Recently, they released the World App, a cryptocurrency wallet that supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, and their own native currency, Worldcoin.

By Impact Lab