- In the last 48 hours, the wildest coup in the history of Silicon Valley took place.
- OpenAI launched CEO Sam Altman, almost hired him, and then went with two other CEOs.
- Altman has now been hired by Microsoft, and OpenAI is facing collapse.
The most exciting business in artificial intelligence has just exploded.
Over the weekend, OpenAI’s board fired CEO Sam Altman, appointed CTO Mira Murati as interim head, resumed negotiations to bring Altman backthen appointed a miscellaneous an interim CEO in Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear.
Altman himself has now been hired by Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor. It appears many OpenAI employees, including former CEO Greg Brockman, will follow suit.
Keep up with the speed?
This weekend was the craziest year in the tech industry.
— Aaron Levie (@levie) November 20, 2023
The drama has been unfolding virtually continuously since late Friday. Since Monday morning, current and former OpenAI executives and employees have been posting expressions of solidarity with Altman on X, mostly using ❤️ emojis, suggesting an imminent mass departure of talent.
It’s good to know that the standard bearer of artificial intelligence, a technology that is already transforming society, is being treated in a balanced way, right?
There is still huge speculation as to why Really The door would be opened by one of the most powerful and experienced technology CEOs today.
The board said it pushed Altman out because he had not been “consistently honest with the board,” but has remained relatively silent since then.
Silicon Valley and its fans filled the silence.
“Goodbye OpenAI,” said AngelList founder Babak Nivi – he said in a Monday post on the X website. “I advise all employees to leave. “Your board defamed your old CEO, kept you in the dark all weekend, and went through two CEOs in about 48 hours.”
Nivi added that the board was “extremely incompetent.”
OpenAI has been a remarkable rocket ship since ChatGPT launched in 2022, with large enterprise deals and which is targeting a valuation of $86 billion.
Altman—who is not an artificial intelligence researcher by training—recently demonstrated his commercial prowess at the first-ever OpenAI Developer Day and the launch of custom GPTs.
He recently engaged with world leaders such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US Vice President Kamala Harris and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the AI Security Summit in London earlier this month.
Almost every startup looked at us with envy.
But all this drama was only possible because OpenAI is not your typical venture-backed startup.
The company was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to building safe and beneficial intelligence “for the benefit of humanity.” Three years later, it formed a limited-profit partnership known as OpenAI LP, allowing it to raise huge amounts of cash to hire talent and buy computing power.
However, the management itself remains, remarkably, free from investor influence and is therefore focused on OpenAI original mission.
It consists of the co-founder of OpenAI and alleged orchestrator coup Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, relatively unknown entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner, who has led strategy for Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies for the past five years.
For those who believe that OpenAI prioritized monetizing ChatGPT and other products over security, Altman’s departure was not a “screw-up” but rather a Hail Mary.
Gary Marcus, the godfather of artificial intelligence and a former Google employee, said the board’s job was to care for humanity, not protect the brand, adding that they “must have seen danger in something Sam was doing.”
The appointment of a new CEO Shear, who has has previously expressed fears that artificial intelligence could destroy all lifegives weight to this theory.
Another astonishing side effect of this generally astonishing story is that Microsoft, which backed OpenAI with $13 billion, has been misled by the news.
But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella didn’t let a good crisis go to waste. Although he was blindsided by Altman’s firing on Friday, he hired Altman and Brockman to lead a new advanced artificial intelligence research team at Microsoft, while reaffirming his commitment to OpenAI.
The clear takeaway from the chaos: Nadella looks like he won.