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Sam and OpenAI Team Are Back! More Surprise Developments!

All's well that ends well, I guess. Time to catch up on sleep.

Late last night (Tuesday around 1am), I saw the (literally) late breaking news.

tl;dr: Sam Altman is back as CEO of OpenAI along with key members of the team.

Let’s start with the post from OpenAI itself.

Now, we’ve had a rollercoaster of a weekend ever since the news of Sam being fired from OpenAI came out on Friday. So, we need to hear this from the man himself.

So, we have this as confirmation in the form of a heart-salute sandwich of emojis. Words? We don’t need no stinkin’ words! Welcome back, Sam!

And, the hits just keep on comin’… Greg Brockman is back too. And points to Greg for getting right back to coding. LAST NIGHT. When I grow up, I want to be more like Greg Brockman.

So, I’m now prepared to accept this news as actual news and heave a sigh of relief.

I resisted the temptation to wake my 12 yo last night to give him the news (he’s been following the developing story since it started). The first words to leave my mouth when I saw him this morning were: “Sam’s back at OpenAI”. The joy on his face was bright enough to power us through a cold Boston winter. If he didn’t have a MacBook Pro on his lap, I think he would’ve jumped up and done a little dance.

OK, so we have some celebrations in the queue for today.

Meanwhile, let’s get some random dots of thoughts out there in terms of what this means.

  • Not sure if you noticed in the initial tweet at the top of this post, but Bret Taylor (former co-CEO of Salesforce) is joining the OpenAI board as chair. This is fantastic news. Bret is one of my favorite people in tech. He’s a builder at his core with brilliant business instincts. This is a Very Good Thing for OpenAI.

  • For now, Adam D’Angelo is still on the board. This surprised me, but I don’t know the back story or the plans, so we’ll take our wins as we have them.

  • Larry Summers is being added to the board. Yes, the Larry Summers. The one that used to be the treasury secretary. This one surprised me a bit. But, I don’t want to pre-judge.


  • I’ve seen tweets all over of OpenAI team members (including VP Product) about their excitement over being back. So my guess is that after all is said and done, there will be very little loss of talent from OpenAI. Certainly not in the hundreds.

  • I’m hoping this means that the employee share sale that was previously planned (at a rumored $90 billion-ish valuation) will proceed as originally planned. Might be at a lower valuation, but I don’t think it will be dramatically lower. Last 5 days not withstanding, OpenAI is still the world-transforming company it’s been. One could argue that it’s going to emerge from this crisis stronger with even more clarity of purpose and alignment internally.

Here’s the biggie, in terms of where we go from here:

There were some speculating on the Internet whether the turmoil at OpenAI (and it’s possible downfall) would create more opportunity for startups. Because, you know, less competition from the 770 pound gorilla.

On the margin…maybe. There would be less competition for a few startups competing directly with OpenAI that might benefit from its downfall (had that occurred). And of course, Google, Amazon and some of the other big companies might have heaved a sigh of relief.

But, there are 1000x more startups that are made possible by OpenAI thriving and providing the platform and tools we can use to serve our own customers and markets.

A successful, thriving OpenAI is a net positive for the AI community. It will foster more innovation, not less. We will have more AI startups, not fewer. I will be more optimistic about humanity’s future, not less.

Fingers crossed that Sam was right and that Sunday was the first and last time he needs to wear a guest badge at OpenAI.

(#idea: Maybe founders should have a clause in their employment agreement that should they get fired, they get a “Founder Emeritus” designation — unless there was actual illegal/criminal activity involved).

My heart-felt congrats and thanks to the entire OpenAI team.