The startup’s ambitions derive in part from Chaudhri reckoning with the downsides of the products he was instrumental in creating—particularly the ways in which smartphones can nag at and monopolize our attention while siphoning away private data for corporations to profit from. But that doesn’t mean that Chaudhri and Bongiorno, a former director of software engineering at Apple who worked with Chaudhri to launch the iPad, believe that technology is a net negative force in society.
“We’re tech optimists at heart,” says Bongiorno, who is Humane’s CEO. “But we believe it’s also time to question everything to build something better.”
While the duo originally planned to raise funds the week after the pandemic lockdown began in San Francisco, they ultimately ended up taking meetings with investors in June. Within 10 days, they had found their next partners: Sam Altman, former president of Y Combinator and the CEO of AI-development organization OpenAI, and Lachy Groom, an entrepreneur, angel investor, and early employee at Stripe. These two investors are contributing most of the series A round, while a small syndicate of other investors, including Marc Benioff, Valia Ventures, Plexo Capital, and Kindred Ventures, make up the rest.
“I thought the team was exceptional and their vision for a new computing platform and what that would mean for the world as a whole, combined with their expertise delivering on super ambitious things like this . . . it was something I was excited to see and immediately wanted to be part of,” Altman says.
Eventually, the wait will be over and the rest of us will be able to see what the fuss is all about. Bongiorno says the company plans to announce the details before the end of next year. But when we spoke, Groom provided a small hint: “It was one of those things that only seems obvious in hindsight,” he says.