This week, we’ve written a lot about Sam Altman. Friday morning, he was the CEO of OpenAI, the most powerful artificial intelligence company in the world. Monday, bright and early, he was recruited by Microsoft after being fired a few days earlier by his own board of directors.
For that reason, it’s crucial to roll up our sleeves and talk about a man who’s pivotal in the present of AI and has transformed so many lives and jobs… and plans to keep transforming them.
While the good old Altman settles in at Microsoft and along the way tries to regain control of OpenAI, we’ll create a profile that allows you to identify and get to know better the genius behind the position.
The story of the man who transformed AI
Samuel Harris Altman is an American entrepreneur and investor known for his role as co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, the company behind the popular artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT.
Sam Altman was born on April 22, 1985, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents, dermatologist Connie Gibstine and real estate agent Jerry Altman, gifted him his first computer, an Apple Macintosh, when he was eight years old.
Altman previously served as the president of the technology startup accelerator Y Combinator from 2014 to 2019. During that time, the visionary met with the entire Silicon Valley elite.
Altman is a prolific investor in technology startups and nuclear energy companies, having provided funding to 94 companies, according to Crunchbase.
He has invested in companies such as the lodging rental marketplace Airbnb, the payment platform Stripe, and the nuclear fusion company Helion. Altman also serves as an advisor to the Stellar Development Foundation, which supports the development of the cryptocurrency Stellar, and is a co-founder of the biometric platform based on cryptocurrency, WorldCoin.
Altman’s role at OpenAI
Under Altman’s leadership, OpenAI became the leading developer in the generative AI space. The company secured a $10 billion investment from Microsoft in 2023 and, in November 2022, launched ChatGPT.
The AI chatbot became the fastest platform to reach the 1 million user milestone, achieving this feat in just five days.
OpenAI also developed the text-to-image AI generator DALL-E, initially released in January 2021. The latest model, DALL-E 3, was launched in September 2023, with the ability to understand “significantly more nuances and details” than its previous versions.
In April 2023, the company raised an additional $300 million from various venture capital firms such as Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Thrive, K2 Global, and Founders Fund, valuing it between $27 billion and $29 billion. By October 2023, talks for an anticipated stock sale indicated a valuation of $86 billion.
Time magazine named Altman one of the 100 most influential people in the world on its 2023 list.
By then, OpenAI had split into two entities: OpenAI Inc, a nonprofit, and OpenAI Global LLC, a for-profit limited company. The performance of any investment in OpenAI Global was capped at 100 times, and OpenAI Inc was the sole majority shareholder of OpenAI Global.
This setup means that the for-profit entity has a fiduciary responsibility to the nonprofit owner and executive, including Altman, who doesn’t hold shares in the company.
Sam Altman’s farewell to OpenAI
On November 17, 2023, OpenAI’s board announced the dismissal of Altman as CEO and Brockman from his role as board chairman.
The board stated that Altman “was not consistently forthright in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
The day after, it was reported that the board was in talks for Altman to return to the company. However, on November 20, Microsoft’s President and CEO, Satya Nadella, announced that “Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, along with other colleagues, will join Microsoft to lead a new team focused on advanced AI research.”
Right now, Sam Altman’s future isn’t clear, except for joining Microsoft. His role in the AI sector will be pivotal, wherever he works. This industry is somewhat his own.