Weeks before his surprising firing, Altman had been working to raise funds for a new venture.The project is still in development, and formerOpenAI president Greg Brockman is expected to be part of the team. Following Altman’s abrupt dismissal, Brockman, previously the chairman of the board, resigned.
Altman plans a new startup
Sam Altman has been in talks to raise funds for a new chip venture, reportedly called Tigris, in the weeks leading up to his unexpected exit from OpenAI, sources told Fortune.
Altman had been travelling to the Middle East to secure investments for the project. The venture aimed to create semiconductors that would compete against Nvidia, which is currently the dominant player in the artificial intelligence market. However, the chip company has not yet been formed, and the talks with investors are still very early.
Altman had a pitch for a startup that aimed to build Tensor Processing Units (TPUs). These TPUs are semiconductors that are designed to manage specialised AI workloads. Altman’s goal is to provide competition to Nvidia while helping OpenAI by reducing the costs of running its services like ChatGPT and Dall-E.
Microsoft and other OpenAI investors could possibly fund Altman’s new venture
The sources revealed that Altman had also been in discussions with SoftBank Group Corp, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and Mubadala Investment Company, among others, to raise tens of billions of dollars for both Tigris and an AI-focused hardware device he has been developing with former Apple’s former design chief, Jony Ive.
Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who is one of the investors in OpenAI, recently expressed his opinion on Sam Altman’s departure from OpenAI on the social media platform X. He stated that his investment firm wants Sam Altman to return to lead the AI firm. However, if that does not happen, the firm will support him in his next venture.
According to sources, several prominent venture firms, including OpenAI’s existing investors, are ready to back Altman’s new venture. Microsoft, which is OpenAI’s biggest investor, is also said to be interested in supporting Altman’s chip venture.
Resignations pour in after Altman’s ousting
OpenAI removed Sam Altman as CEO following an internal review that found he was not consistently candid with the board. Altman and the board disagreed on AI safety, technology development pace, and commercialization of the company. Altman’s ambitions and side ventures added complexity to their relationship. COO Brad Lightcap stated that the decision was not related to financial, business, safety, or security/privacy issues but rather a communication breakdown between Altman and the board.
Hours after the firing, Altman posted a message on X expressing his love for the OpenAI team. Following this, many OpenAI employees reposted his message with heart emojis. According to multiple sources, this signalled to the board who would leave OpenAI to follow Altman to a new venture. One source stated that many people were there because of Greg Brockman, the now-resigned president, and Sam.
Over dozens of OpenAI employees declared their resignation on Sunday night, as reported by the Information, following the board director and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever’s announcement that the fired CEO Sam Altman will not be returning and will be replaced by Shear. The word is that these employees could join Atlman and Brockman in their new venture. However, OpenAI’s competitors, like Google, have been actively trying to poach OpenAI staff over the last 48 hours.