Sam Altman Reportedly Doesn’t Own Any Equity in ChatGPT Creator OpenAI

  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman took no equity in the company when it became for-profit, Semafor reported.
  • Altman was already wealthy from his investments in successful startups before he cofounded OpenAI.
  • He reportedly said OpenAI was not meant to make money, and not having equity would keep him aligned to its mission.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman decided not to take any equity in the company when it became for-profit, Semafor reported.

Altman was reportedly already wealthy from his investments in successful startups, having previously served as president of startup incubator YCombinator prior to helming OpenAI, the company behind the buzzy artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT.

He also reportedly told people close to the matter that OpenAI was not meant to make money despite its need to become a for-profit business to continue its research, claiming that not having any equity in the company would keep him aligned with the company’s mission, per Semafor. 

OpenAI did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment nor to confirm Altman’s lack of equity in the company.

Altman and Elon Musk founded OpenAI in 2015 as a non-profit AI research company with a mission to make sure artificial intelligence would “benefit humanity as a whole.” At the time, Musk warned that AI was the “biggest existential threat” to humanity, and the company stated on its website that “it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly.”

Musk resigned from OpenAI’s board of directors in 2018, writing in a blog post he wanted to “eliminate a potential future conflict” as Tesla began focusing more on developing fully autonomous cars.

According to Semafor, Altman’s decision to forgo equity in the startup worried some potential investors. However, OpenAI received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft less than six months after it became a “capped-profit” company, meaning it was both for-profit and non-profit.

The investment allowed OpenAI to develop the AI models that now not only have the tech world in a tizzy, but the general public, too. 

When its generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT, launched in November, it hit one million users in five days, and started an AI space race with tech behemoths like Google, who reportedly issued a code red over the technology and recently launched its own bot to underwhelming reviews.