Who is behind OpenAI & ChatGPT?

Dimitri Pletschette
5 min readFeb 12, 2023

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The timeline from 2015 to 2023

In a blog post back in 2015, OpenAI detailed a vision to create a friendly artificial intelligence, an AI that would be the extension of the human will and, in the spirit of freedom, be distributed as widely as possible. A simple but complex task. The team also warned at the time that it could be just as easy to imagine how much it could harm if misused.

Open AI logo

According to Wikipedia, “The organization was founded in San Francisco in 2015 by Sam Altman, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Elon Musk, Ilya Sutskever, Peter Thiel and others, who collectively pledged US$1 billion.”

Open AI was designed as a nonprofit organization to “free itself from financial constraints and produce a long-term beneficial impact through its research”. Behind this exciting statement, we find Greg Brockman, former engineer at Stripe; Ilya Sutskever, a machine learning specialist with a background at Google; and Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combinator.

Greg Brockman (left) and Sam Altman (right)

The three men have repeated at will over the years that they wanted to create a “friendly AI”, an artificial intelligence that would benefit rather than negatively affect humanity. The team members also shared their fears of seeing the human race overtaken by machines at the time with another engineer and businessman: Elon Musk.

In 2018 Musk resigned from the board but remained a donor.

A year later, in July 2019, Microsoft injected $ 1 billion into OpenAI and ensured privileged access to its technologies. This last piece is fundamental, as we often hear that Microsoft has acquired ChatGPT, which is not the same.

Sam Altman (left) and Satya Nadella (right)

OpenAI has become the name behind the biggest successes in the artificial intelligence sector in seven years, but this is not without some controversy and contradictions for some analysts around the globe. For example, in 2019, the nonprofit organization became a “capped profit company” to meet significant financial needs. Under this new status, the company decided to limit its earnings to a ceiling set at 100 times the investment amount. A generous amount that, according to some, would distance OpenAI from its historical mission.

Later, in January 2023, after its 2019 $1 billion investment, Microsoft added a second multi-year investment, which was reported to be over $10 billion.

Behind the curtains.

There is a margin for improvement in DE&I, as the company welcomes only 25% of women or non-binary people among its employees and 30% among its management team. Is this linked to the hazard or the fact that the company is constantly evolving? Time will tell, but if confirmed and with tools as powerful and popular as ChatGPT, we can wonder what the social consequences of such corporate bias could be around the globe.

As of January 2023, the company hired more than 375 employees, and there is a lot of chance that, despite the recent tech layoffs, they will continue to grow (hopefully in a much more diverse way) to keep up with their engagements and demand.

The vision remains intact.

Despite everything, OpenAI’s concerns have not changed, according to his boss. In a 2021 interview, Sam Altman stated that the company’s goal is to create a general artificial intelligence “that evolves in the right direction, not the wrong one”. For example, the young CEO explained the social utility of a model like GPT-3: “We can imagine particular teachers in the form of AI who could teach you everything you want to know […] AI life coaches, therapists or medical advisors.”

OpenAI seeks to democratize AI at all costs. There is not a single day that passes now where we do not see a blog post like the one you are reading, a TV show, or a radio program around ChatGPT (version 3.5 — 2021). But are success and popularity the same thing?

What do we know today?

On the 23rd of January 2023, both Open AI and Microsoft published statements of their extended partnership, as well as the announcement of Azure Open AI.

However, when it comes to who’s behind the company in 2023, we need to take things at the source — https://openai.com/about.

OpenAI LP is governed by the board of the OpenAI nonprofit, comprised of OpenAI LP employees Greg Brockman (Chairman & President), Ilya Sutskever (Chief Scientist), and Sam Altman (CEO), and non-employees Adam D’Angelo, Reid Hoffman, Will Hurd, Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner, and Shivon Zilis. Investors include Microsoft, Reid Hoffman’s charitable foundation, and Khosla Ventures.

We are not at a stage where we can say that “Open AI” belongs to “Microsoft”. Nevertheless, we must also understand the influence Microsoft will have on OpenAI over the next years.

OpenAI LP structure in February 2023

What is the short-term future of OpenAI?

ChatGPT will probably be the top product for Open AI in the short term. Undoubtedly, it will be incorporated in various layers at Microsoft (Ms. Teams Chat-bots, Azure, SharePoint, Power Automate, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, etc.).

Knowing that GPT-4 is just around the corner is also the promise of more performances and possibilities. For example, the company claimed that GPT-4 would have 100 trillion parameters in opposition to the 175 billion parameters of GPT-3. We could also potentially see, in the future, other OpenAI products like “Whisper” and “DALL-E-2” integrated into “Bing Search,” as it has just started for ChatGPT.

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Dimitri Pletschette

Dad, Husband, Blogger, Digital Product Manager and Technology Enthusiast. Follow 👉 https://dimitripletschette.com