OpenAI’s future is at risk as more than 700 of its 770 employees signed a letter on Monday saying they would quit if ousted chief executive Sam Altman is not reinstated at the high-profile artificial intelligence start-up. If so, he may leave the company for Microsoft. ,
OpenAI’s four-person board shocked the tech industry on Friday afternoon when it removed Mr Altman, saying it could no longer trust him. One of the board members who ousted Mr. Altman reversed course on Monday and signed a letter demanding that he be reinstated.
The board’s decision triggered a frantic weekend of unexpected corporate jockeying that ended with Mr. Altman joining Microsoft to start a new AI project. As of Monday morning, 700 employees had signed the letter, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The turmoil has thrown the future of one of the fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley history into doubt. At a time when the industry was grappling with mass layoffs, OpenAI’s technology fueled the creation of hundreds of start-ups. Now, many of those businesses are worried about their prospects.
“This is the debacle of the decade,” said Gaurav Oberoi, founder of Lexion, a start-up that relies on OpenAI to help companies streamline legal, sales and vendor contracts. “It’s a lesson in how to destroy huge amounts of value and your reputation overnight.”
OpenAI declined to comment. Emmett Shear, whom the board named as interim chief executive late Sunday, declined to immediately comment because he was busy on another call.
The letter said Microsoft had assured OpenAI employees that there were positions for all of them if they chose to join its new AI subsidiary. Microsoft declined to comment.
Signer No. 12 on the letter is a surprising name: OpenAI’s chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, a member of the four-person board that fired Mr. Altman. “I never intended to harm OpenAI,” he said on X. mr altman Reposted message And added three red hearts.
Mr. Sutskever did not respond to a request for comment.
In addition to Mr. Altman, several key OpenAI employees have already joined Microsoft’s new AI subsidiary. This includes OpenAI President Greg Brockman, who left the start-up in solidarity after Mr Altman was ousted. In a post on Monday morning to
Mr. Pachocki led the development of GPT-4, the technology that underlies OpenAI’s popular chatbot, ChatGPT. He has long worked closely with Mr. Brockman, an engineer who, along with Mr. Altman, helped found OpenAI in 2015 and has been deeply involved in nearly all aspects of the company’s operations since its early days Are.
Hours after the board posted its memo on Friday night, there was turmoil among OpenAI staff, two OpenAI employees told The New York Times. Both said, employees were privately sharing disgusting jokes and memes about the power struggle from the HBO show “Succession.” Many people used private group messaging chats and video calls to plan their next steps and commiserate with each other.
OpenAI still has a partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella told X in a post early Monday that his company is committed to it. He said Microsoft will continue to work with start-ups to sell a wide range of products and services based on GPT-4 and other OpenAI technologies.
But if most OpenAI employees leave for Microsoft, the start-up will have a hard time building next-generation AI technologies — systems that will be more powerful than ChatGPIT. Other companies including Google and Meta are working on such technologies.
Lexion’s Mr. Oberoi said his company is using OpenAI’s large language models, or LLMs, to develop new features because its AI technologies are more advanced than any others on the market. But in the wake of this weekend’s turmoil, he said Lexion will develop features in parallel with OpenAI rival Anthropic, so the company can “quickly switch if needed.”
“This highlights a larger discussion: Are you going to build your technology and platform and key features on a third-party LLM?” Mr. Oberoi said. “As a builder in terms of our products, I am worried if there will be any other sudden decision that may impact our models. Plus, it’s really expensive.”