Are you going to let Sam Altman’s crypto project scan your eyeballs or not?
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Earlier this week, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s audacious eyeball-scanning crypto startup Tools for Humanity started the global rollout of its Worldcoin product. The company wants to help build a reliable solution for “distinguishing humans from AI online,” enable “global democratic processes” and “drastically increase economic opportunity” the company said in a release.
The startup, which raised about $250 million altogether from backers like Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures and Reid Hoffman, said it’s rolling out its identity technology as well as its token internationally.
The project gives eligible participants 25 Worldcoin (WLD) tokens, currently worth about $55, for onboarding. During its trial phase, more than 2 million people signed up and scanned their eyes for the startup’s biometric database.
With that said, not everyone is excited about this endeavor and find the 25 tokens a nominal tradeoff for some of their biological data. Some people are also arguing that Worldcoin is exploitative for initially recruiting participants through poorer countries.
In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Worldcoin CEO Alex Blania acknowledged there was some “friction,” with the startup, but attributed it to the fact that the company was still in its early phases.
The “Orb tour” began in Tokyo in April 2023 and has spread to other locations across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Although the Worldcoin token is not available to U.S. citizens due to regulatory restrictions, that hasn’t stopped the startup from advertising appointments to get your eyeballs scanned in major American cities like Miami, New York City and San Francisco. I even spotted a few advertisements this week as I walked through mid and lower Manhattan, but did not make an appointment.
Individuals who participate must consent to the startup’s biometric data collection. The consent form has three options: don’t agree to anything (no data collected and no scan happens), agree to Orb scan but opt out of data custody (data collected, but temporarily stored) or agree to Orb scan and full data custody.
Worldcoin’s services are also not eligible to people in 11 other countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Iran and Cuba, as well as the European Union, according to its user terms and conditions.
If Worldcoin succeeds, there’s potential for the startup to have one of the largest databases of human biometrics, which could come with security risks if the information is not protected properly. In turn, that data could help prove who is real online — and on the blockchain — a non-trivial problem to solve.
On the other hand, if the startup doesn’t gain mass adoption, it could leave investors with a big hole in their pockets, and could make those who signed up susceptible to their personal information being sold to others (which is apparently already happening).
With all that said, would you sign up?
This week in web3
- Wormhole digs out of its hole with new security measures to move on from $320M hack
- Avalanche Foundation to invest $50M in asset tokenization on its blockchain
- After federal court win, Ripple’s legal head still expects the battle for regulatory clarity to drag on
- a16z-backed Eco unveils Beam, a P2P crypto transfer service aiming to be a ‘global Venmo’
- Crypto wallet Zengo launches pro subscription with additional security features
The latest pod
Boys Club is a social decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) for the “crypto curious.” Originally designed to get women and non-binary people into the web3 world, it now aims to be an open space for anyone looking to get into the space.
Although it’s a social DAO, Boys Club has a handful of other ventures, like their newsletter and podcast, which I was a guest on, as well as events like crypto conference parties and trivia nights.
Before Boys Club, Deana and Natasha were co-founders of a recently acquired travel platform Allcall. Deana was also a communications partner for the blockchain-based Celo Foundation and Natasha previously worked at Fora Travel as a general manager.
We discussed the origin story for Boys Club, what trends Deana and Natasha are following and how they’ve seen the industry evolve since launching their group.
We also talked about:
- EthCC 2023 vibe check
- Inclusivity in web3
- Diversifying the industry
- Advice for the crypto newbies
The bonus pod
Stu spent most of his career working for traditional financial institutions in legal roles at firms like CIT Group, American Express and HSBC and left that world in 2019 to join Ripple.
Ripple has been around since 2012, but has been making headlines lately for the recent federal court ruling that stated the XRP token, which is linked to Ripple, is not a security when sold to the general public but can be treated as a security for past XRP sales to institutional clients.
We broke down the nitty gritty details of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York federal court ruling for Ripple and what it means for the company, XRP token and crypto ecosystem.
We also talked about:
- Securities versus commodities
- Ripple’s SEC lawsuit
- Future regulation and clarity
- Advice for other startups
Need to catch up before you listen? Read these for a quick overview:
- Federal court rules Ripple’s XRP token can be treated as a security… sometimes
- Ripple’s XRP case ‘underscores the need for regulatory clarity’
Follow the money
- Flashbots raised $60 million in a Series B to help improve Ethereum-based infrastructure
- Web3 gaming developer Delabs Games raised $4.7 million in a seed round
- Decentralized cloud infrastructure provider Aethir raised about $9 million at $150 million valuation
- EthStorage raised $7 million in a seed round at a $100 million valuation to scale Ethereum through its layer-2 solution
- Side Protocol raised $1.5 million through a SAFT to grow its cross-chain liquidity network
This list was compiled with information from Messari as well as TechCrunch’s own reporting.
What else we’re reading
Want to branch out from the world of web3? Here are some articles on TechCrunch that caught our attention this week.
- Microsoft’s and Alphabet’s results indicate the AI game is more of a long-term strategy
- 5 founders discuss why SAFEs are better for early-stage and bridge rounds
- Finding CEO: It’s the new ‘Finding Nemo’
- Hackers are infecting Call of Duty players with a self-spreading malware
- Don’t fall into the toxic workplace trap
Follow me on Twitter @Jacqmelinek for breaking crypto news, memes and more.