Sam Altman’s crypto project Worldcoin got more coin in latest $115M raise

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Welcome back to Chain Reaction.

Got coin? No? Well, Worldcoin did.

Tools for Humanity, the team building Worldcoin, raised $115 million in a Series C round led by Blockchain Capital.

The crypto-focused project was co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman with a three-part mission: create a global ID, a global currency and an app that enables payment, purchases and transfers using its token -- alongside other cryptocurrencies and traditional assets.

Worldcoin has faced some concerns from people worried about privacy risks because it requires scanning a billion people’s eyeballs with a five-pound chromatic sphere called “The Orb” in exchange for its token.

“For good reason, folks get concerned and sensitive when it comes to biometrics — particularly so when you add a dose of crypto,” Spencer Bogart, general partner at Blockchain Capital, wrote in a post on Wednesday.

“However, what’s actually happening under the hood is that the orb takes a picture of an iris and the device subsequently generates a unique encoding of the randomness of the iris (an 'iris code'),” Bogart added. “Per default, the original biometric is immediately destroyed and the iris code is the only thing that leaves the orb.”

While the public may be hesitant, investors are still diving into the project as it’s one of the few crypto companies still receiving hefty sums of capital amid an ongoing bear market.

Other investors in the Series C round include a16z, Bain Capital Crypto and Distributed Global. In March 2022, Worldcoin raised $100 million at a $3 billion valuation.

In 2021, Worldcoin CEO Alex Blania told TechCrunch that the currency is part of a larger effort to drive a more unified and equitable global economy driven by the internet economy, something cryptocurrencies notably haven’t nailed in their first several years.

The latest raise will go toward bot detection, research and development and expanding its Worldcoin project and application. Worldcoin is currently in beta testing and has onboarded about two million users across five continents.

Bogart and Blockchain Capital believe that Worldcoin could become the biggest onramp to crypto and the World App could become the most widely adopted crypto wallet. All of this is TBD.

This week in web3

Arrington Capital-backed group to acquire Celsius assets

Following a bankruptcy process, the assets of the failed crypto lender Celsius Network are about to be acquired by a consortium called Fahrenheit. Behind this name, you will find a group of bidders led by investment firm Arrington Capital. The other members of the consortium are crypto mining firm US Bitcoin Corp., Proof Group, Steven Kokinos and Ravi Kaza.

Take a look at Wolf’s first cohort of Bitcoin-driven startups (TC+)

In Wolf’s Clothing (Wolf), a startup accelerator launched by asset management firm Stone Ridge, wants to bolster Bitcoin-focused applications and use cases. Its first cohort, Wolfpack 1, consisted of eight teams and 23 founders from 10 countries, and they presented their ideas on Wednesday during a demo day, exclusively covered by TechCrunch+.

Montenegro court overturns Terraform founder Do Kwon’s bail

A high court in Montenegro overrode a lower court’s previous decision that would have released Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon on bail. The ruling comes nearly two weeks after Montenegro’s Basic Court agreed to release detained Kwon and his former colleague Chang-joon Han on bail.

Mastercard sees ‘a lot of promise’ in blockchain tech if safety and simplicity are prioritized (TC+)

While the web3 world has seen a significant influx of capital, innovation and talent, more work is needed to ensure traditional players — as well as new ones — can enter the ecosystem confidently. “People look at crypto and think of it as an investment, but there’s a whole sector that’s a lot more useful for financial industries as a whole,” said Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard’s EVP and head of crypto and blockchain, during a blockchain-focused panel at the company’s North America Innovation Day event. “The technology itself holds a lot of promise.”

Solana launches ChatGPT plug-in to help users interact with its network (TC+)

As the artificial intelligence market continues to heat up, a number of crypto players — big and small — are diving in. The Solana Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the layer-1 blockchain Solana, has officially integrated AI into its network with a ChatGPT plug-in developed by Solana Labs, the team exclusively told TechCrunch+. (Solana Labs is the team building products and tools for the blockchain.)

The latest pod

For last week’s episode, Jacquelyn interviewed Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink, a protocol that provides an oracle network to power smart contracts.

Chainlink is also known as a web3 services platform that connects people, businesses and data with the world of web3. And for good reason -- it has enabled over $7 trillion in transaction volume across DeFi, gaming, NFTs and other major industries.

Prior to co-founding Chainlink, Nazarov co-founded four other businesses, most recently SmartContract -- which focused on smart contracts.

We discussed a number of things surrounding smart contracts, oracle networks, cross-chain interoperability and Nazarov’s long-term vision for Chainlink.

We also dove into:

  • Unexpected smart contract use cases

  • Cryptographic guarantees

  • How traditional companies can tokenize assets

  • AI and blockchain technology

  • CCIP updates

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite pod platform to keep up with the latest episodes, and please leave us a review if you like what you hear!

Follow the money

  1. Dispersion Capital launches $40 million fund focused on decentralized infrastructure

  2. Decentralized science startup LabDAO raises $3.6 million

  3. Openfort raises $3 million to make "frictionless" crypto accounts for gamers

  4. Institutionally-focused digital assets platform PYOR raises $4 million

  5. App automation platform Fastlane raises $2.3 million

This list was compiled with information from Messari as well as TechCrunch’s own reporting.

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