OpenAI's Leadership Shakeup: A Short Timeline of Sam Altman's Departure and Its Ripple Effects

Hello DIW readers, did you hear what happened at OpenAI last Friday? Very surprising and upsetting. Sam Altman, who was the boss of OpenAI (the mastermind of ChatGPT), was told to leave by the board. And not just him. Greg Brockman, who helped start OpenAI and was president, also left, along with three important researchers. This is a big change!

I'm sure like me you are trying to understand everything, as everything is moving very fast. For now, I'm listing a timeline to help us see what is happening. Expect further updates as we learn more.

Timeline of Sam Altman Leaving OpenAI

November 16:

Ilya Sutskever Texts Altman: On Thursday, Ilya Sutskever, the cofounder and chief scientist of OpenAI, sends a message to Altman. They plan to talk on Friday. Greg Brockman said this on X (formerly Twitter).

Mira Murati Hears About Altman: Brockman also says that Mira Murati, the CTO at OpenAI, was told Thursday night that Altman will not be CEO anymore.

November 17:

Greg Brockman Not Chairman Anymore: Sutskever asks Brockman for a quick call. After this, Brockman is not the chairman of the board but stays president. Also, Sutskever tell him that Altman has been fired.

OpenAI Tells Everyone: On their blog, OpenAI says there are big changes in who leads the AI startup. The people who manage the company find out just before.

Meeting for Everyone at OpenAI: They have a big meeting on Friday. Sutskever says it was right to fire Altman. He says it is not a bad thing but needed for OpenAI's goals.

Microsoft Talks About It: Satya Nadella, the boss of Microsoft, talks about what happened. He says Microsoft will continue its collaboration with OpenAI, focusing on advancing AI initiatives..

Brockman Leaves Too: After all that happens, Brockman decides to leave OpenAI. He tells people inside and on X.

Other Researchers Leave: After Brockman, three big researchers, like Jakub Pachocki and Aleksander Madry, also leave.

November 18:

Not Because of Bad Things: OpenAI’s COO, Brad Lightcap, sends a letter saying the decision was not because of bad actions. It was a misunderstanding between Altman and the board. But there are worries about how it was done.

Money Problems for OpenAI?: A report claims OpenAI might not get as much money as they thought. Maybe the value of the company will be less because of these changes.

Altman's Next Project: Altman tells the world he wants to start a new company, maybe about AI chips. Brockman might go with him.

Investors Want Altman Back: People who give money to OpenAI are not happy. They want Altman to come back. Even Nadella from Microsoft thinks this is a good idea.

November 19:

Altman's Planned Visit to OpenAI HQ: The Information has news that Altman is expected to go to OpenAI's office in San Francisco. The executives there want him back as CEO. They have also asked Brockman to come, but we don't know if he will say yes.

Trouble with Board Discussions: Bloomberg reveals that Murati, Lightcap, and some others, are trying their best to get the board to bring Altman back. But the directors are not agreeing easily. Up to Sunday afternoon, they still have their positions. They worry about who will come after them. They are looking at new people for the board, maybe even Bret Taylor, who is co-CEO at Salesforce.

November 20:

Sam Altman Visits OpenAI HQ as a Guest: On Sunday, Sam Altman comes to OpenAI's headquarters. He shares a photo on X, where he is wearing a visitor badge for OpenAI. He writes, "first and last time i ever wear one of these." There are news stories claiming that Altman might think about coming back to OpenAI. Greg Brockman, the president who left on Friday, might also return after Altman's leaving news.

Altman Not Returning as CEO: The Information reports, based on an internal memo from Sutskever, that Sam Altman won't come back as CEO. As OpenAI looks for a new permanent leader, Emmett Shear, known for starting the video streaming site Twitch, steps in as interim CEO. He takes over from Mira Murati.

Sam Altman Joins Microsoft: Shortly after leaving OpenAI, Sam Altman and Greg Brockman have been hired by Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. Announced by CEO Satya Nadella, this move comes just hours after Altman's confirmed exit from OpenAI. Nadella also notes Microsoft's ongoing interest in collaborating with OpenAI's new leadership, including interim CEO Emmett Shear.
This leadership overhaul at OpenAI, not only raises questions about the company's future direction but also shines a light on the broader, sometimes harsh realities of corporate and startup culture in the tech industry.

Startups Growing Up - Not Always Easy

In startups, founders sometimes have to leave. When companies get big, investors and board members want to achive different objectives. They think more about money, not always about the original idea or dream. This is what maybe happened at OpenAI. It's like this in many startups. They start with a big dream, but as they get bigger, dreams change, and not always in a good way.

Big Companies and Money First

When a company becomes big, they often think more about revenue. Sometimes, they forget about making good products or taking care of their customers. It's sad but true. Big companies can focus too much on making more money and being the only one on top.

What's Happening at OpenAI Now

OpenAI is at a crossroad. They were known for doing good in AI, thinking about ethics. But now, with new leaders, what will happen? Will they stay true to their good goals, or will they change and just think about money and being the biggest? It's a big question that only time will reveal.

Looking at Other Big Tech Companies

We see this kind of story in other places too. Big companies like Uber, WeWork, even Twitter, they all had leadership changes. Founders left, and the companies changed, not always for the better. And very big ones, like Google and Facebook, sometimes they make choices that are good for money but not so good for us, the users.

In the End

This news from OpenAI, it's more than just about one company. It's about a big thing in the tech world that we often called the corporate culture. How companies start with dreams and how those dreams change. It's about money, power, and what really matters. What OpenAI does next, it's important. It will show us if they can keep their good goals or if they will become like others, prioritizing profits over principles.

Photo: DIW

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