OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and OpenAI Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati speak at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, October 17, 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon | Afp | Getty Images
Sam Altman’s sudden ouster from OpenAI on Friday shocked Silicon Valley. Altman, 38, was not only CEO of the hottest startup on the planet, but he had also become the face of generative AI after his company’s ChatGPT chatbot went viral at the end of the year last.
From the outside, there were some signs of technological challenges at OpenAI, but there was no indication that tensions were emerging within the board and senior management. Altman was always on the move, proselytizing the value of advanced artificial intelligence while warning of its potential harms and advocating for regulation.
Last month, reports have surfaced that OpenAI was in talks with investors to sell employee shares at an astonishing valuation of $86 billion. This follows a dramatic correction in tech valuations over the past 18 months after a decade-long bull market fueled by cheap money and lots of FOMO (fear of missing out).
OpenAI was the darling of the industry during difficult times. Microsoft poured out billions of dollars. The company topped CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list, released in May. Shortly before the list was released, Altman told CNBC: “I think we’re in a new wave of technology and this one is, I think, the biggest in a while.”
All of this made Altman’s exit difficult to imagine and have in the tech community. comparing the move to Apples dismissal of Steve Jobs in 1985. In a statement on its website, OpenAI said: “The Board no longer has confidence in its ability to continue to lead OpenAI. » The company named Mira Murati, who was chief technology officer, as interim CEO.
If you had followed Altman over the past two weeks, you would have seen an industry leader at the center of the action. Here is an abbreviated timeline of the days leading up to Altman’s departure:
Altman took the stage at OpenAI’s DevDay event in San Francisco, where it announced GPT-4 Turbo, the company’s most powerful AI model. Users also had access to all of OpenAI’s tools, such as its DALL-E image generator and PDF download, within ChatGPT.
At the event, Altman said prices for OpenAI software would be reduced and individual users could customize ChatGPT. It also unveiled an OpenAI app store, an additional way for the company and its investors to monetize its products.
In a surprise appearance, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined Altman on stage to discuss the future of OpenAI and their partnership. Microsoft committed an additional $10 billion earlier this year, the largest AI investment of 2023, according to PitchBook.
“I think we have the best technology partnership,” Altman told Nadella on stage. “I’m excited that we’re building AGI together,” he said, referring to artificial general intelligence.
ChatGPT temporarily crashed in the morning. The chatbot told users that “ChatGPT is currently at full capacity” and the update page called it a “major outage.” After a little over an hour the issue was resolved before experiencing difficulties again later in the day.
OpenAI said in the evening that its problems were linked to a denial of service (DDoS) attack.
“We are experiencing periodic outages due to abnormal traffic reflecting a DDoS attack,” the company said.
The problems continued into the next day before being resolved.
Altmann posted on, formerly Twitter, that there would be a pause in signing up for ChatGPT Plus. He said there was a surge in requests after the DevDay announcements and usage “has exceeded our capacity and we want to make sure everyone has a great experience.”
Altman appeared at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, speaking on AI.
On Friday at 3:28 p.m. ET, OpenAI published a blog post announcing Altman’s firing. At the same time, the company said Greg Brockman, president of OpenAI, was being removed as chairman of the board but would remain as executive.
Here’s what happened next:
Altman made his first public statement about his departure, writing on
Brockman announced on that he would be leaving the company “based on today’s news” and said he was “super proud of what we’ve all built together since we started in my apartment 8 years ago.”
In an X post, Brockman provided a detailed account of Altman’s impeachment.
He said that on Thursday evening, Altman received a text message from OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever asking if they could talk the next day at noon. On Friday afternoon, Brockman wrote, Altman joined Google Meet with OpenAI board members Sutskever, Tasha McCauley, Adam D’Angelo and Helen Toner. Brockman, who was chairman of the board at the time, was not there.
At the meeting, Sutskever told Altman that he was no longer CEO. Shortly afterward, Sutskever informed Brockman that he was being removed as president but could remain president. OpenAI’s blog post was published “around the same time,” Brockman wrote.
He said it appeared Murati didn’t know about the move until the night before. Altman republished Brockman’s chronicle of events.
Chief Operating Officer, Brad Lightcap sent a memo to OpenAI employees regarding the dismissal. Lightcap said everyone was surprised by the board’s decision and said Murati “has our full support as CEO.”
“We can confidently say that the board’s decision was not made in response to any malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety or security/privacy practices,” wrote Lightcap.
—Jordan Novet of CNBC contributed to this report
WATCH: OpenAI announces that Sam Altman is stepping down as CEO