What’s going on at OpenAI?

What’s going on at OpenAI?

Sam altman.png

OpenAI has been at the centre of much drama over the past few days after co-founder and CEO Sam Altman was ousted from the company.

What happened? 

There is growing discontent from the employees of OpenAI following the departure of Sam Altman, CEO and co-founder of the company after he was relieved of his position.

Altman was fired for allegedly lying to the OpenAI company board, although no details were given on what Altman had lied about.

Sources in the US say that a key point of difference was Altman’s aggressive approach to developing AI while the board aimed to move more “cautiously”.

In a statement, OpenAI said that new leadership was “necessary” as it moved forward. The company appointed Emmett Shear, co-founder of streaming platform Twitch as its interim CEO.

“Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” the board’s statement said.

Microsoft seized the opportunity, immediately appointing Altman and former president Greg Brockman, who stepped down from his role following Altman’s departure, to lead a new AI research team.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sought to calm any potentially growing tensions by reaffirming his company’s partnership with OpenAI in a statement on LinkedIn.

But this didn’t stop staff and investors calling for the resignation of three directors since Altman’s departure – with employees saying the board had “undermined our mission and company” in a letter.

A source from the Financial Times indicated that 747 employees out of 770 had called for the board to quit as of Monday evening.

Another report from The Verge indicated that both Altman and Brockman could still return to OpenAI if the board members did leave their roles.

In a post, on X, Altman said that his priority is to “ensure OpenAI continues to thrive”.

Why does it matter?

The company, which thrust generative AI into the mainstream with the launch of ChatGPT last year, now faces an uncertain future.

A potential mass exodus would surely hamper the company that was once seen as one of the world’s most promising AI startups, with a valuation of around US$ 90 billion.

This could allow Big Tech giants to take more control over AI technology, which is making rapid advances, forcing countries to begin implementing regulations.

OpenAI was founded in December 2015, with Altman and Elon Musk serving as board members.

The firm received significant backing, with Microsoft providing it with a $1 billion investment in 2019 and a $10 billion investment in 2023.


“Zooming out, this development sheds light on the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the AI sector," Brian Sathianathan, co-founder of Iterate.AI says.

"It's not just about fast moving superior technology; it's about securing the best minds in the field."

Sathianathan says companies like Microsoft are in a race to lead in AI research and applications, recognising the game-changing possibilities across different industries.

"This move by Microsoft isn't just about staying ahead; it's a reminder of the competitive landscape where strategic hires and partnerships are the keys to long-term success."

He says as AI continues to evolve, these collaborations will likely play a pivotal role in shaping the future of innovation and technological breakthroughs.

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