OpenAI’s decision to fire CEO Sam Altman may have put the company’s future in jeopardy.
Reportedly, a lion’s share of its employees have threatened to walkout unless the ousting is reversed. Complicating matters further, a number of executives from big tech orgnanizations have offered jobs to employees considering leaving.
To my partners at OpenAI: We have seen your petition and appreciate your desire potentially to join Sam Altman at Microsoft’s new AI Research Lab. Know that if needed, you have a role at Microsoft that matches your compensation and advances our collective mission.
— Kevin Scott (@kevin_scott) November 21, 2023
Salesforce will match any OpenAI researcher who has tendered their resignation full cash & equity OTE to immediately join our Salesforce Einstein Trusted AI research team under Silvio Savarese. Send me your cv directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Einstein is the most successful… pic.twitter.com/1RXoc9ekeo
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) November 20, 2023
Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott and Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff have offered to match the compensation of any OpenAI employees looking to jump ship while team leaders at both Meta’s FAIR and Nvidia have solicited resumes and offered to place former OpenAI employees in their divisions.
My team at NVIDIA is hiring. We you all from OpenAI. Engineers, researchers, product team, alike. Email me at email@example.com. DM is open too. NVIDIA has warm GPUs for you on a cold winter night like this, fresh out of the oven.
I do research on AI agents. Gaming+AI,… pic.twitter.com/fVlUgSrsRc
— Jim Fan (@DrJimFan) November 20, 2023
I’m really sorry to hear what’s happening to our OpenAI friends. Our team at FAIR is actively hiring for our mixed-modal LLM team across the whole pipeline. Please reach out to me if you’re interested.
— Armen Aghajanyan (@ArmenAgha) November 20, 2023
The outpouring of support comes on the heels of a rollercoaster 12 months for OpenAI. The firm released its seminal “ChatGPT” product in November of 2022 to worldwide acclaim. In the time since, the company’s valuation has catapulted to a reported $86 billion. However Altman’s surprise ousting on Nov. 17 has resulted in unprecedented turmoil for the firm.
As of Nov. 21, and the time of this article’s publication, a reported 700 of the company’s supposed 770 employees — including Ilya Sutskever, the sole remaining co-founder to occupy a position on the firm’s board of directors — have signed a letter signalling their intent to walk out if Altman isn’t reinstated.
Related: Microsoft and Nvidia stocks reach all-time highs amid OpenAI CEO shuffle
While the threat of an employee walkout isn’t unusual in the tech sector after a company overhaul, this particular scenario could have an outsized impact according to speculation from numerous boffins and pundits.
One unlikely scenario being bandied about involves the hypothetical wholesale hiring of all available OpenAI employees by a larger firm such as Microsoft. This would ostensibly create a hostile takeover scenario wherein OpenAI is acquired in all but name for pennies on the dollar.
It’s in Microsoft’s interest to hire the OpenAI employees to gut OpenAI and build the Advanced AI team at Microsoft, a wild scenario:
-Microsoft offers *each* of the 770 employees a “modest” $10,000,000 ($10M) signing bonus.
-That would cost a meager $7.7B.
-A $82.3B saving…
— Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) November 20, 2023
However, there are multiple other scenarios to consider. Recent reports show that OpenAI’s board and newly-hired CEO Emmett Shear are engaged in “intense discussions” with employees and stakeholders.
If successful, OpenAI could retain its core development team and move forward with its new CEO. But Microsoft’s hiring of Sam Altman as the CEO of an as-yet-undisclosed new AI division within the company could complicate matters as he may no longer be incentivized to lead OpenAI.
It remains to be seen whether OpenAI employees will make good on their threat to walkout if the company chooses not to overturn its Nov. 17 decision or if Altman refuses to return.
Microsoft and OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.