The board of artificial intelligence startup, OpenAI, recently announced the hiring of Emmet Shear. A former CEO and co-founder of Twitch, Shear will step into the role of interim CEO. This change in leadership arises amidst appeals from investors, including Microsoft, Thrive Capital, and Global Management, to restore Sam Altman to the CEO position. It came to light that Altman had indicated that his negotiating period with OpenAI’s board was at an end.
A memo leaked from the OpenAI board conveyed, “The board firmly stands by its decision as the only path to advance and defend the mission of OpenAI. Put simply, Sam’s behavior and lack of transparency in his interactions with the board undermined the board’s ability to effectively supervise the company in the manner it was mandated to do.”
Emmett Shear is no stranger to tech leadership. Before his appointment at OpenAI, Shear led Twitch, a company he had co-founded, for a decade, overseeing its transition from Justin.tv to becoming the world’s leading video game streaming service. After Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014, Shear served as a part-time advisor at Y Combinator, a startup founded by Sam Altman, between 2014 and 2019.
Shear’s views on artificial intelligence were highlighted in a report by Bloomberg, suggesting his connection to the effective altruism movement – a group that expresses uncertainty regarding AI’s potential risks. He confessed to the Wall Street Journal, “It’s like a universe destroying bomb…It’s bad in a way that makes global warming not a problem.”
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, expressed his excitement about working with Shear, stating, “We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate … We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them.”
Just days after the OpenAI board dismissed Sam Altman on November 17, Shear’s appointment as the interim CEO of OpenAI was reported. OpenAI, known for their AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT, is currently in talks to secure a funding round that might increase the company valuation to above $86 billion.
While surprising, these shakeups in the tech world have been happening at a time when OpenAI is in the middle of critical decisions. Altman’s departure did raise some speculation about his potential return to the CEO chair, but with Microsoft’s recent announcement of Altman leading a new advanced AI research team, this likelihood seems to have quietened down.
So, what’s next for OpenAI under Shear’s leadership? Shear expressed his approach, stating, “I have a three point plan for the next 30 days: Hire an independent investigator to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report; Continue to speak to as many of our employees, partners, investors, and customers as possible … Reform the management and leadership team in light of recent departures.”
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