ChatGPT creator OpenAI is in “intense discussions” to unify its divided staff, Vice President of Global Affairs Anna Makanju wrote late Monday in an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg News. Makanju aimed the message at employees who have grown anxious after days of tumult following the ouster of Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman and the board’s surprise appointment of former Twitch chief Emmett Shear as his interim replacement.
According to its website, the company was founded in 2015 and has a stated goal of using AI to advance humanity in ways that benefit all people. It’s one of the world’s top research institutions in artificial intelligence. It has significantly contributed to developing self-driving cars, medical diagnosis, and other fields.
But a series of events over the weekend sent shockwaves through the tech industry when the board at OpenAI decided to fire Altman, leaving hundreds of employees pledging to leave the company unless he was reinstated. After Altman’s removal, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella jumped into the fray to clarify that the company remains committed to its partnership with the startup that has invested billions of dollars in its infrastructure and helped it become the world’s leading commercial AI startup.
Multiple sources say several top venture capital firms backing OpenAI have swung behind the employees and were exploring legal action to force the board to reverse course. And a venture fund person with investments in the company says it’s considering pulling its funds if the situation doesn’t change soon.
In the memo, Makanju says the board talks with Altman, Shear, and other staffers to find a solution. She also said it will hire an independent investigator to review the process that led up to the crisis and engage with employees, partners, investors, and customers to ensure customer satisfaction.
Shear, who has over two decades of experience in the tech industry and is renowned for his role in developing the live-streaming platform Twitch, has a reputation as a thoughtful leader and has demonstrated an understanding of AI’s ethical and societal aspects. He’s a natural fit to lead the team as they continue to push the boundaries of AI, Makanju says.
Shear, who will have the support of the remaining members of the board, including OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology Director Helen Toner, said in a post on X that he’s excited to take the reins. He said he’s bringing his deep technical expertise, leadership skills, and commitment to ensure that our work at OpenAI benefits humanity. In addition, he’ll help us build a more cohesive culture. He’s also committed to ensuring we have the resources and autonomy to fulfill our mission and keep growing and evolving our products and services.