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Who is funding OpenAI’s rise to the top?

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The groundbreaking tech company OpenAI is leading the way in the research and development of artificial intelligence with a focus on human benefits and safety. OpenAI is the driving force behind popular programs like ChatGPT, Sora, and DALL-E. 

It’s helping to build useful tools for completing various tasks across industries, from influencing the gambling industry with money casinos you can play online to reducing the significant demands on healthcare systems.

Although developing a high-value company has never been a goal for the company, OpenAI is currently worth over $80 billion. This value can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a number of high-earning companies and individuals who have funded the company.

Who have been the influential players in OpenAI’s worth and rise to the top? It’s a collection of people and companies, ranging from the company’s CEO to tech industry giants and venture capital groups; this article will review the company’s key financial players.

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Sam Altman 

Sam Altman is the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI and a savvy startup investor. He’s invested in well over a hundred startups, including Instacart, Reddit, and Pinterest, and served as the president of Y Combinator for five years. He’s a Stanford computer science dropout, and his career has had him compared to tech greats like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Altman initially added a modest $15,000 to OpenAI’s funds, but his investment in the company also encompasses his work as a CEO and his role in propelling OpenAI’s mission. Altman’s position at OpenAI has been subject to criticism and turmoil. He was dismissed by the OpenAI board in November 2023 but regained his position a few days later.

Greg Brockman

The co-founder and president of OpenAI, Greg Brockman, contributed to the company’s finances in its first funding round, which garnered $1 billion. However, it’s not clear how much he added to this total. Brockman is Stripe’s former CTO, a position he left to take on his role at OpenAI. 

Like Altman, Brockman’s position with the AI company has been tumultuous. His actions greatly influenced the company’s operations and the news cycle with his response to Altman’s dismissal in 2023; he resigned from his position in protest.

Elon Musk

While Musk contributed $45 million to OpenAI, his contributions were linked to disagreements and major disruptions to the company. In the early days of OpenAI, Musk expressed interest in managing and integrating the company with Tesla. He had an expansive vision for what OpenAI could be, but it vastly differed from what the rest of the company board wanted. 

He was denied the opportunity to become the sole controller of the company. As a result, Musk decided to leave the company and withheld the funding he’d committed to delivering. Though he’s no longer involved in the company, he’s still feuding with Altman and the board and recently filed a lawsuit against OpenAI.

Peter Thiel

Co-founder of multiple successful startups, including PayPal, Founders Fund, and Palantir Technologies, this German-American entrepreneur has invested some of his fortune into OpenAI, but it is unknown how much exactly. Like other fund providers already mentioned, he was among the AI company’s early contributors in their first round of funding. He also held a co-chair position on the company’s board, making him an influential player.

Reid Hoffman 

Reid Hoffman is primarily known for being the founder of LinkedIn, though he is also an author, podcaster, and successful venture capitalist. He was among the early financial backers of OpenAI, helping the company reach its first $1 billion funding goal, and a board member, though he decided to step down in 2023.

Amazon Web Services 

Amazon Web Services, more often referred to as AWS, is a subset of Amazon. The company was among the first round of investors in OpenAI but has since moved on to other AI ventures. Amazon has shifted its focus to one of OpenAI’s biggest competitors, Anthropic.

Microsoft

Microsoft has been a massive fund provider and technology partner for OpenAI. In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion and an additional $10 billion in 2023. Beyond the financial investment, Microsoft also powers OpenAI’s process by providing the essential computing infrastructure for research and programming. 

Thanks to this heavy hand in the development process, Microsoft has been able to integrate OpenAI capabilities across its range of products and services. By actively involving itself in OpenAI, Microsoft maintains a competitive edge in the tech industry, increasing its bottom line and overall value.

Infosys

Infosys, an information technology company based in Bengaluru, India, was one of OpenAI’s earliest financial supporters. The IT company decided to back OpenAI due to the founder’s interest in OpenAI’s mission.

Pooled Investors

Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, Thrive Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and K2 Global pooled their resources to deliver $300 million in funding for OpenAI in the spring of 2023.

Unlike organisations like Microsoft, these investment and venture capitalist groups aren’t funding the project to become tech partners but instead are hoping to see financial returns — their funds can be seen as an investment and not an interest in participating in OpenAI’s operations or business structure.

Conclusion

Though the funding and board development of OpenAI has been filled with controversy and feuds, the company has still secured significant financial resources to assist it in reaching its vision of ensuring “that artificial general intelligence — AI systems that are generally smarter than humans — benefits all of humanity.” Huge financial players have contributed the money and have helped OpenAI reach the hands of average internet users — even through the turmoil.

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