• Sahara, which describes itself as a decentralized AI network, has raised $6 Million in a round of seed funding led by Polygon Capital.
  • The Los Angeles-based company was founded by Sean Ren. He is an AI researcher, and a tenured faculty member of USC’s Computer Science Department.

Sahara, a new startup that combines crypto and artificial intelligent, claims it can help workers, companies and their data get paid for their expertise, knowledge and knowledge in the age AI.

Los Angeles-based startup Polychain Capital has raised $6 Million in a Seed Funding Round. Samsung Next, Matrix Partners and Motherson Group were also involved in the round. Sandeep Nailwal is co-founder of Polygon’s blockchain ecosystem.

AI products such as Google’s Gemini and ChatGPT are trained using massive amounts of data. They improve over time based on user feedback. According to Co-founder Sean Ren’s startup, it is developing a suite products that directly rewards users, data providers, and AI trainers who help develop the tools. This is a radical departure from the current AI model where the proceeds go towards the company that created the model.

Ren, a tenured professor of computer science at the University of Southern California, said that “users provide very personalized feedback” to AI systems to help them improve. He started Sahara in 2012 after seven years of working as an AI researcher. Ren, in an interview with CoinDesk, said that people are “totally okay” sharing their data because they’re happy to get a free service. Recently, however, “we have seen jobs being replaced by AI because they’ve improved it so much,” Ren told CoinDesk in an interview.

Ren believes that AI giants today are not incentivised to compensate their customers. Ren says that if we want to solve the problem of AI causing people to lose their jobs, the solution must come from the bottom with disruptive technology.

According to Ren’s bio on USC’s website he works at the Allen Institute for AI founded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen. He was previously a data scientist advisor at Snapchat. The bio states that his academic research aims to create generalizable NLP systems capable of handling a variety of language tasks, and to expand the scope of the model generality.

According to his LinkedIn Profile, Tyler Zhou is the other co-founder of Binance Labs. He studied at University of California at Berkeley and was an investment director in Binance Labs between 2022 and 2023.

AI model training

Sahara Knowledge Agent, one of Sahara’s first products will be a customizable AI for both individuals and companies. Sahara KA will differ from other AI agents in that it can be monetized directly by the experts or companies who train it.

This feature is said to use blockchain networks in order to track data, and reward contributors while maintaining privacy. The feature will be developed using Sahara Data. This is another early product of the startup that “provides high value data services for AI models training, addressing concerns regarding security and privacy.”

Sahara claims that its technology has been adopted by Microsoft, MIT, and USC. Two enterprise clients are already using the Sahara KA services. Ren said that Sahara’s products will be available to the public in the second and third quarters this year.

Ren said, “I believe the Web2 AI economy is broken and we’re trying to ensure that everyone has their role in this ecosystem of Sahara.”

He said that “professional experts can monetize their expertise and scale it up using agent technology to reach more people.” He said that a majority of laymen, who may not have a lot of professional expertise or knowledge, can contribute to the public knowledge base, or public base models, which are AI agents with broader capabilities.

If the model is profitable…

Ren said that in each case contributors receive “a share” of the model. If the model is profitable in the future as a result people paying for it, the “shareholders” will receive profit.

Sahara’s Seed Raising comes at a time when the intersection of AI and Crypto is experiencing a moment.

Worldcoin is the crypto startup founded by Open AI founder Sam Altman. It has been making headlines for its controversial retina-scanning method of verifying digital identity in the age AI. Vitalik Buterin is the Ethereum cofounder and blockchain leader who has been widely quoted for his recent blog post as well as other public statements that explore how AI and crypto complement each other.

Interest in the sector has also been seen in dollars. AI-related tokens, in addition to recent fundraises by AI-linked crypto companies, have also surged recently. They have outpaced the CoinDesk Index 20, which is a benchmark for the largest cryptocurrencies. This was due to the strong earnings reported by NVIDIA, the leading AI chipmaker, last month.

Bradley Keoun is the editor.