Microsoft has appointed Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, OpenAI co-founders, to lead a new advanced AI research team, as announced by CEO Satya Nadella, concluding discussions after Altman's unexpected dismissal by OpenAI's board.
Co-founder Brockman was among the numerous OpenAI employees who protested last week and quit the company. Nadella said that Altman would lead Microsoft's new Artificial Intelligence division.
“We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn, and I’m looking forward to having you do the same.”
According to Nadella, "colleagues" will be joining Altman and Brockman. Szymon Sidor, Jakub Pachocki, and Aleksander Madry—three former OpenAI top talent—are joining Microsoft with "more" to follow, according to a post by Brockman on X. (OpenAI staff submitted a letter on Monday requesting the resignation of the board, and stating that Microsoft has made employment offers to all of them.)
“We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” said Nadella, in what many tech entrepreneurs labelled as an example of “incredible execution.” Brockman added in a post that the new team will build “something new & it will be incredible.”
Nadella stated that the Windows maker is still dedicated to the startup. His company has spent over $10 billion on OpenAI and now has over 50% of the company.
The swift action of OpenAI's board allegedly caught Microsoft off guard. It's amazing that Nadella was able to persuade the former OpenAI executives to join him in a comfortable new location before the market opened on Monday.
The most valuable startup in the United States, OpenAI, has Altman as its public face. In less than a year, it has not only taken the lead in the current AI race according to many estimates, but it has also taken on the role of kingmaker for thousands of other firms that are building on top of its software solutions.
Microsoft's AI efforts have also been boosted by investment in OpenAI, which has helped them win over numerous firms.
Many well-known investors and business leaders have expressed astonishment at OpenAI's move, cautioning that the startup might find it difficult to continue moving forward at its current rate without Altman's guidance.
Microsoft's calculated decision to acquire Altman and Brockman strengthens its competitive advantage, keeps other big tech firms from stealing their know-how, and supports Wall Street's optimistic assessment of Microsoft's future.
"The mission continues," Altman declared after Nadella revealed the 38-year-old businessman's acquisition of Microsoft.
Microsoft's decision follows a turbulent weekend in which the OpenAI board, investors, team members, and Altman all made vain attempts to persuade the entrepreneur to rejoin the business.
Rather, in a move that apparently startled Altman, the OpenAI board named Emmett Shear, a co-founder and former chief executive of Twitch, as its interim CEO. A comment request was not answered by OpenAI.
According to the New York Times, Altman also started pitching a new AI startup to investors earlier this weekend.
“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,” Nadella added.
The OpenAI board said it had removed Altman because he had not been “consistently candid” in his conversations with them. It didn’t elaborate on the reasoning, which angered many OpenAI employees.
“The board had a chance to explain their drastic actions and they did not take it,” wrote Andrej Karpathy, a research scientist at OpenAI, on X.
Wedbush analysts labelled the hiring of OpenAI co-founders by Microsoft as an "earthquake," emphasizing OpenAI's technology as vital to Redmond's Copilot and enterprise strategy.
The weekend report highlighted the loss of Altman and Brockman as a significant near-term and potentially long-term setback for OpenAI's future strategic initiatives.
Top talent at OpenAI, including CTO Mira Murati, disputed the board's decision on Monday, causing numerous talent to depart the company by saying, "OpenAI is nothing without its people."
Shear acknowledged that OpenAI's communication and procedure surrounding Altman's termination "have been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust" in a post on X Monday.
Shear stated that in order to better serve OpenAI consumers, he intends to reorganise the management and leadership team, employ an independent investigator to do a thorough assessment of the procedures that led to Altman's dismissal and undertake in-depth talks with relevant parties over the course of the next 30 days.
“Depending on the results of everything we learn from these, I will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary.
"I will be rolling these out as they become clear over the 30-day period. OpenAI’s stability and success are too important to allow turmoil to disrupt them like this.
"I will endeavour to address the key concerns as well, although in many cases I believe it may take longer than a month to achieve true progress,” he wrote.
“I have nothing but respect for what Sam and the entire OpenAI team have built. It’s not just an incredible research project and software product, but an incredible company. I’m here because I know that, and I want to do everything in my power to protect it and grow it further.”