OpenAI CEO Sam Altman will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in San Francisco, California, USA on November 16, 2023.
Over the past few years, people across Silicon Valley have pinned their hopes and fortunes on the generative artificial intelligence technologies that OpenAI helped popularize.
Many industry experts say ChatGPT’s debut late last year was an iPhone-like moment, with potential for the way people interact with computers through written prompts that can generate creative, seemingly human-like text. It points out that it shows the potential to bring about change.
in the same way apple Just as the late Steve Jobs served as the company’s respected figurehead, articulating the appeal of the iPhone and personal computers to the masses, OpenAI had its own charismatic leader in Sam Altman.
Comparisons with Apple are being made freely since Altman is no longer CEO, at least for now, after his sudden firing on Friday. Jobs fired him as Apple’s CEO in 1985. This move remains the stuff of Silicon Valley legend. It was after Jobs returned in 1997 that Apple finally found its way to becoming the most valuable company in the United States.
Mr. Altman, who previously ran startup accelerator Y Combinator, has spent the past year befriending world leaders and appearing regularly at technology events, molding the 38-year-old executive into the mold of Mr. Jobs. I changed it to a celebrity in the industry who I emulated. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and tesla CEO Elon Musk.
OpenAI’s board of directors, along with Altman, removed Greg Brockman from his position as chairman. Late Friday, Brockman said he was leaving the company.
“What happened today at OpenAI is a board coup like nothing since 1985, when the then-Apple board ousted Steve Jobs,” Ron Conway, a longtime startup investor, said Friday night. , told X magazine. post. “This is shocking, irresponsible, and not the right thing to do for Sam and Greg or all the builders of OpenAI.”
OpenAI investors are already working to bring Altman back, according to people familiar with the matter. microsoft, Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital and Thrive Capital are among OpenAI’s leading backers seeking to bring Altman back, said the person, who requested anonymity because the discussions are confidential. said the people. The Verge reported Saturday that Altman is “ambivalent” about his possible return.
airbnb CEO Brian Chesky referred to Altman by “X” post He described him as “one of the greatest founders of his generation” and “has made tremendous contributions to our industry.”
Silicon Valley reacts to OpenAI
Matt Schlicht, CEO of the startup Octane AI, told CNBC that Altman and Brockman, the former chief technology officer at Stripe, “have made technology available to us that we could only dream of.” “We did it,” he said, calling it “the most exciting technology ever.” A powerful development in our lifetime. ”
Octane is one of many startups using so-called large language models that OpenAI has packaged into its GPT family of software tools. Schlicht said the technology has so far enabled “human-level intelligence to be built into code, which has helped entrepreneurs generate more than $500 million in revenue.” .
“I’ve known Sam and Greg for over 10 years and they are incredibly inspirational leaders,” Schlicht said. “I was immediately filled with sadness upon hearing of their untimely departure. Innovation in the world has come to an abrupt halt.”
Zenlytic CEO Ryan Jannsen echoed Schlicht’s sentiments.
“The AI community is upset,” Janssen said, adding that technologists are confused about the circumstances surrounding Altman’s firing and what it means for OpenAI going forward.
“Sam and OpenAI were the catalyst for showing the world what AI technology is capable of,” Janssen said. “The tremendous excitement and activity in AI today is precisely because of their pioneering efforts.”
Whether Altman returns or not, OpenAI’s disruption could give rivals an advantage in what is rapidly becoming a competitive market for advanced LLMs. From well-funded startups like Anthropic and Cohere to cloud computing giants. Google and AmazonIndustry analyst Patrick Moorhead said that given OpenAI’s perceived instability, companies are likely to “look for the next best alternative.”
“It’s not the only game in town,” Moorhead said.
Josh Wolf, a partner at venture firm Lux Capital, said OpenAI has taken a huge reputational hit as companies decide which models to use as building blocks.
“There was a recognition that there was steady, predictable, reliable and reputable progress and engagement and communication with industry,” Wolf said. “The incredible vagaries of this movement demonstrate sheer unpredictability and are frightening for companies planning to work with or trust OpenAI.”
Unusual structure of OpenAI
A big part of the challenge in understanding OpenAI is Unusual company structure. According to a blog post announcing Altman’s firing, OpenAI’s board of directors oversees the nonprofit organizations in which the entity participates and “serves as the overall governing body for all OpenAI activities.” ”.
The post said that after a “deliberative process by the board,” it concluded that Altman “has not been consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering the board’s ability to carry out its responsibilities.”
The firing of CEOs at Silicon Valley’s high-profile startups often involves misconduct, not just philosophical differences over where the company is headed.
Multiple investors told CNBC that OpenAI’s hybrid model raised red flags from the beginning, in part because the incentives were so easily misaligned. They said the company now risks a serious brain drain if top talent chooses to follow Mr. Altman’s next project or industry competitors.
Mr. Altman, on the other hand, has the advantage of having made such a great name for himself that he has no problem raising money for new projects from investors who see him as the next great tech celebrity. There will be no problem.
“Sam Altman is my hero,” former Google CEO and investor Eric Schmidt told X magazine. post. “He built a company worth $90 billion from the ground up and changed our world forever. I can’t wait to see what he does next. I and billions of other people are excited about his future work. You’re going to benefit from it. It’s going to be. It’s just incredible. ”
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will attend the first AI Insights Forum on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, in the Russell Building on Capitol Hill.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call Inc. | Getty Images
Airbnb’s Chesky wrote that he has spoken with Altman and Brockman and that they have their “full support.”
“I am saddened by what happened,” Chesky wrote. In another post, he added that Altman was “one of the greatest founders of his generation.”
CEO Satya Nadella was said to have been caught off guard by the shakeup, given the billions of dollars the company has invested in the company. Some venture capitalists are surprised that they haven’t.
“I think the next time Microsoft decides to spend $15 billion on a startup, they might ask for a board seat,” said Zachary Lipton, a professor of machine learning and operations research at Carnegie Mellon University. talk.
Moorhead, the industry analyst, said Microsoft could figure out “how to buy this company and how to put Sam in charge.”
“This is the first move: remove the current board, reinstall a new board, and then potentially find a way to bring Sam and his friends back. To ensure the band stays together. ” Moorhead said.
Despite the current turmoil, Carnegie Mellon University’s Lipton said he expects investors to remain bullish on AI.
“While there are elements of corporate and ideological discord in this story, there is no sign of diminishing expectations,” Lipton said.
—CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this report
clock:OpenAI says Sam Altman is stepping down as CEO because he “no longer has confidence in the board of directors.”