Microsoft Snaps Up OpenAI Co-Founders as Drama Continues
Microsoft has snapped up OpenAI co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman to lead a new advanced AI research team, as announced by the company’s chief, Satya Nadella, on Monday.
This move follows the OpenAI board’s unexpected Friday decision to fire Altman, which led to significant unrest within the organization, as Brockman quit soon afterwards in protest. On Sunday, a last-minute plan to re-hire Altman had failed, but at the last minute, Microsoft swooped in and changed everything.
Altman will now assume the role of chief executive of Microsoft’s new AI group. Nadella expressed confidence in their ability to foster independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, drawing parallels with previous successful integrations like GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn.
The new team at Microsoft will include former OpenAI talents such as Szymon Sidor, Jakub Pachocki, and Aleksander Madry, with more expected to follow, according to Brockman. Microsoft has reportedly extended job offers to all OpenAI employees, a gesture welcomed by many in the tech industry as an example of “incredible execution.”
OpenAI is behind the wildly popular generative AI service ChatGPT, backed by Microsoft. OpenAI is able to leverage its partnership with Microsoft and use the expensive hardware compute offered by the latter to advance its research and feature set. ChatGPT could not even write a script like what’s happening in real life here.
Nadella emphasized Microsoft’s continued commitment to OpenAI, where it has invested over $10 billion and acquired almost 50% ownership. The integration of OpenAI’s leadership and talent is seen as a strategic move to reinforce Microsoft’s competitive edge in the AI market, particularly following OpenAI’s rapid ascent as a key player in AI technologies.
“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them. And we’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” said Nadella before midnight on Sunday.
Elon Musk, who also has his own AI company xAI, deadpanned a reply to Nadella with, “Now they will have to use Teams!”.
Now they will have to use Teams!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2023
The shake-up at OpenAI began after a drama-filled weekend, with attempts to reinstate Altman failing, leading to the appointment of former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as interim chief executive.
OpenAI’s decision to remove Altman was slammed by over 600 employees who threatened to quit the company unless the board resigns.
Andrej Karpathy, a research scientist at OpenAI (and formerly from Tesla), expressed on X frustration at the board’s lack of explanation for their drastic actions. This sentiment was echoed by many OpenAI employees, who emphasized the value of their people to the organization, reports TechCrunch.
“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company,” said Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and board director on Monday morning, in what looks like an extremely late chance to save face.
In the end, it looks like Microsoft has won as Altman, Brockman and key OpenAI staff have moved over to the Redmond-based company.