Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, believes that AI will “incredible abundance,“But he says he wants to make sure that such abundance is shared. Towards that end, Altman is hugged Theory of 19th century political economists Henry Georgewho during his lifetime was concerned with accumulating wealth in the hands of the few after the Industrial Revolution. George opined that greater equality could be enjoyed if the economic value of land was held equally by all members of society.

Altman similarly believes that in a world where jobs create less economic value, a land tax can make up for the income tax and guarantee that all people’s wealth increases as land—a fixed asset—grows in value. He’s putting his money where his mouth is, leading a seed round at a six-month-old startup that represents a step in the same direction.

On the face of it, dress, is called ValueBase, sounds pretty simple. It plans to use land-first models to create collective valuation modeling and asset valuations. By feeding data into its algorithm from weather balloons and other sources from aerial photography vendors, ValueBase says it can automate much of the valuation of land and buildings for municipal property tax assessors, many of whom still rely on pen and paper and who primarily focus on Characteristics of buildings and less on the land on which those buildings sit.

The idea is to flip the model a bit, says Valuebase cofounder Lars Doucet. “If you understand that land is one of the key drivers of value, you don’t have to crawl through people’s windows and through their houses with rifles and take all these invasive pictures. If you can price the land first, you can get more accurate because you have access to the characteristics of the land, including distance to school, distance to work, how noisy the road is, how much pollution there is, whether it’s nice. See – all these things are very legible without ever entering the property and therefore easy to calculate.”

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This is a smart approach for several reasons. For one thing, working with municipal property tax assessors can help those assessors explain to a home or building owner why a property is valued at a particular value. ValueBase may become even more valuable to cities as more tax assessors retire. (Most of the time are middle-aged white men in America)

ValueBase’s strategy is also self-serving. It gets access to critical data that it can use to create more commercial applications, including for brokerages and mortgage lenders.

Either way, ValueBase has a higher calling, Doucet insists. It wants to pave the way for public works in a particular location by learning as much as possible about every parcel in the United States and beyond. “If someone asks, ‘Hey, how much is all the land in Idaho worth?’ and ‘Can you tell me about the parcel?’ We’ll be the first people they want to call about it,” he said.

Currently, it’s hard to imagine anyone asking that question, let alone ValueBase, which still employs four people spread across North Carolina, Virginia and Texas.

Still, if Altman is right about the exponential rate of change we’re collectively facing, that change could happen, and frankly, he’s willing to bet on it.

Hydrazine Capital, a fund run by Altman and business partner Ryan Cohen, led a $1.6 million round in ValueBase. They were joined by former Github CEO Nate Friedman, serial entrepreneurs Sahil Lovingia and Eric Torenberg and others.

Pictured above: Front and center are Will Jarvis, CEO of ValueBase; Doucet is in the far right corner.


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