Before Altman’s ouster, tensions had been rising at OpenAI as the company’s profile soared. In particular, Sutskever, a respected AI researcher, had grown increasingly worried that OpenAI’s technology could be dangerous and that Altman was not paying enough attention to that risk, three people familiar with his thinking have said. Sutskever also objected to what he saw as his diminished role inside the company.
Altman’s firing drew attention to a longtime division in the AI community between people who believe AI is the biggest business opportunity in a generation and others who worry that moving too fast could be dangerous.
His exit also caused waves across the tech industry, where Altman is well known not only from OpenAI but from his years leading Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup incubator. Many of OpenAI’s investors — which include Microsoft, Thrive Capital and Sequoia Capital — did not learn about Altman’s exit until a minute before his departure was announced or after the news became public.
By Friday evening, Altman and Brockman were racing to set up a new AI company, three people familiar with the situation have said. They also considered which OpenAI employees would join them. At least three other OpenAI employees have resigned over the last two days.
Altman took a break to poke at OpenAI’s board on social media, with a joke threatening to start “going off,” or speaking candidly, about the situation.
Tech investors also rushed to show their support for Altman and hinted that they would back his next venture.
Alfred Lin, an investor at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm that invested in OpenAI and Altman’s first startup, Loopt, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he looked forward to “the next world-changing company” that Altman and Brockman would build. Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, posted, “I can’t wait to see what he does next.”
While still leading OpenAI, Altman had pitched several ideas for new projects to investors and others in recent months. During a fundraising trip last month in the Middle East, Altman spoke about AI-related projects, including a plan to develop custom chips for AI that would compete with the chip company Nvidia.
Altman also spoke with Masayoshi Son, the CEO and billionaire founder of the tech conglomerate SoftBank, about investing in an effort to build an AI device with Jony Ive, the former chief design officer at Apple.
But by Saturday afternoon, Altman and Brockman were also talking with the OpenAI about a return.