18th November 2023 – (New York) Sam Altman, renowned for his pioneering work in artificial intelligence (AI) and as a public persona of OpenAI, has been relieved of his role as CEO and director in a sudden decision by the company’s board. OpenAI, currently valued at an estimated $80 billion, has commanded attention since launching ChatGPT a year ago.
The board cited a lack of “consistent candidness in his communications” as the reason for Altman’s departure, although the specifics of what led to his dismissal were not immediately clear on Friday.
Altman, the co-founder of OpenAI and former head of the well-known startup incubator YCombinator (YC), leaves a significant void in the company’s fundraising efforts. Maintaining OpenAI’s advanced software requires substantial financial resources and skilled engineers, many of whom were attracted to the company by Altman himself.
The 38-year-old remained resilient until the end of his tenure at OpenAI, making appearances at an AI conference in San Francisco and speaking on a panel at the ongoing APEC summit alongside a senior Meta executive, even as the board deliberated his future.
Altman shared his sentiments on Elon Musk’s X, another AI competitor, stating, “I loved working with such talented people. Will have more to say about what’s next later.”
He is widely credited with persuading Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to invest $10 billion in OpenAI and led the company’s tender offer transactions this year. These actions contributed to an almost three-fold increase in the company’s valuation from $29 billion to over $80 billion.
Altman’s influence was instrumental in luring AI engineering talent in an increasingly competitive tech market. He successfully poached from tech giants like Google and Microsoft, offering the enticing prospect of participating in the development of a technology with the potential to revolutionise the world.
However, this very technology has stirred concerns about apocalyptic scenarios where the autonomous software could take over the world, infringe on intellectual property rights, and even render secondary education redundant or a hotbed of cheating. Altman, however, argued that “heavy regulation” was not necessary for the time being.
Altman, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, attended Stanford for a year before dropping out, a path followed by many tech moguls. In addition to his contributions to OpenAI, he also launched a cryptocurrency firm earlier this year that uses iris scanning for verification.
Altman’s ambition and innovative approach likely appealed to ambitious engineers eager to escape the grind of traditional blue-chip tech companies. “As long as you are right, being misunderstood by most people is a strength not a weakness,” Altman wrote in a blog post three years ago. “You and a small group of rebels get the space to solve an important problem that might otherwise not get solved.”