Sam Altman

Sam Altman (b. 1985) is a U.S. tech entrepreneur and investor. He has been the CEO for OpenAI since 2019, except for a short break in November 2023 when he was fired and hired back again.

In 2023, Altman was named CEO of the Year by Time Magazine and included in their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. He has been invited to attend the Bilderberg Meeting several times, starting in 2016.

Altman entered the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in March 2024, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion. Most of the money are venture capital funds related to Hydrazine Capital.

Early Life

Samuel “Sam” Harris Altman was born in Chicago, Illinoia on April 22, 1985, and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. His family is Jewish, and Sam is the eldest of four sibblings. His father was a real estate broke and his mother is a dermatologist.

Sam got his first computer, an Apple Macinstosh, when he was eight. This prompted him to learn how to code and understand computer hardware.

After John Burroughs School, a private school in Ladue, Missouri, Altman spent two years studying computer science at Stanfird University. He dropped out without getting his bachelor’s degree, to concentrate on Loopt, a mobile social networking service he co-created.

Early Success in Entrepreneurship

Sam Altman showed signs of his entrepreneurial spirit at an early age, and his first venture was selling items online. His journey into the world of tech startups began in 2005 when he co-founded the location-based social networking mobile app Loopt at age 19, while studying at Stanford University. He managed to raise over $30 million in venture capital for Loopt, and his work with Loopt catapulted Altman into the league of successful young entrepreneurs. The venture capital included an initial investment of $5 from Patrick Chung of Xfund and his team at NEA. Examples of other investors are Sequoia Capital and the startup accelerator Y Combinator.

Loopt struggled to attain enough users, and in March 2012 it was sold to the Green Dot Corporation for $43.4 million. In April, Altman co-founded Hydrazine Capital together with his brother Jack Altman.

In 2011, before Loopt had been sold, Altman joined Y Combinator on a part-time basis, and he would later become Parter, and also serve as its president from 2014 to 2019.

Time With Y Combinator

Altman joined Y Combinator in 2011, and became a Partner and president in 2014, taking over the leadership role after Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham. Y Combinator has nurtured several start-ups that are now household names, such as Dropbox and AirBnb.

The $700 million equity fund YC Continuity was established in 2015, to invest in companies as they matured from being start-ups. 2015 was also the year when the non-profit research lab Y Combinator Research was created.

In 2016, Altman´s role expanded, as he became president of the whole YC Group.

In 2019, Altman transition from president to chairman of the board, in order to free up more time for him to focus on OpenAI. In early 2020, Almtan´s association with the YC ended. Later on, reports emerged, claiming that Altman had appointed himself chairman without authorization.

Altman and OpenAI

In 2015, Altman co-founded OpenAI with a mission to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) benefits all of humanity. OpenAI aims to build safe and beneficial AGI directly, but is also committed to aiding others in achieving these outcomes.

OpenAI was initially funded by Altman, Greg Brockman, Elon Musk, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Infosys, and YC Research.

As Chairman of OpenAI, Altman has vowed to ensure that the deployment of AGI is used for the broader benefit of all and to avoid uses of AI or AGI that could harm humanity or concentrate power unduly. These values reflect both Altman’s and OpenAI’s commitment towards ethical AI development.

After the launch of ChatGPT, Altman made a world tour in 2023, visiting 20+ countries and meeting with leaders such as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol, Israeli president Isaac Herzog, British prime minister Rishi Sunak, French president Emmanuel Macron, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, and German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

November 2023 controversy

On November 17, 2023, the OpenAI board, announced the removal of Altman as CEO and Greg Brockman (also a co-founder) from the board. In response, Brockman resigned from his role as President of OpenAI.

Later that same month, it was announced that Altman would be joining Microsoft to lead a new AI research team. Soon, over 700 of 770 OpenAI employees threatened to leave for Microsoft unless Altman was reinstated as CEO. This included OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskyver, who had previously advocated for firing Altman, but had now changed his mind and apologized publicly.

On November 20, OpenAI announced that Altman would return as CEO and Brockman as president. On March 8, 2024, OpenAI announced that Altman would rejoin the Board of Directors after a review by law firm WilmerHale.

Elon Musk sues OpenAI and Altman

In February 2024, Musk sued OpenAI and Altman, alleging they broke the company’s founding agreement by prioritizing profit over benefit to humanity.

Other endevours

In 2014, Altman was the CEO of Reddit for eight days, following the resignation of CEO Yishan Wong and prior to the return of Steve Huffman. Altman invested in Reddit in 2014, 2015 and 2021, and was a part of the board for Reddit until 2022. Prior to the IPO in 2024, Altman owned roughly 9% of Reddit shares.

Altman co-founded Tools For Humanity in 2019, a project that involves eye scanning identification and the cryptocurrency Worldcoin.

During the Covid19 pandemic, Altman helped create and fund Project Convalence to lauch clinical trials with TrialSpark.

During the depositor run on Silicon Valley Bank in March 2023, Altman provided capital for multiple start-ups.

Examples of other ventures into which Altman has made substantial investments are AirBnB, Stripe, the fusion research company Helion Energy, and the human health research company Retro Biosciences. He is also chairman of the nuclear fission company Oklo.

Personal life

Altman has been openly gay since high school. He was in a long-term relationship with his Loopt co-founder Nick Sivo for nine years, which ended in 2012.

In January 2024, Altman married the engineer Oliver Mulherin at their home in Hawaii. When in San Franciso, the couple live in their city home in the Russian Hill neighborhood. In their free time, they like to go to Napa, California.

Altman is a prepper and publicly announced in 2016 how he had stocked up on guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, and gas masks, and how he had a big patch of land in Big Sur, California, to retreat to.

Altman supports the Democratic party. In 2019, he held a fundraiser at his house in San Francisco for 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. The following year, Altman donated $250,000 to American Bridge 21st Century, a super-PAC supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Altman is a supporter of land value taxation and universal basic income.

Altman’s Vision for the Future

OpenAI, under Altman’s guidance, is currently working on cutting-edge research in machine learning and AI. They’ve made significant strides in areas like language processing (GPT-3), robotics, and reinforcement learning. His belief in ‘AI for all’ has shaped OpenAI’s approach, which includes publishing most research and prioritizing long-term safety in AI applications.

Altman’s vision of the future is centered around the democratization of AI. He believes that AI will have broad societal impact before AGI, and strives to lead in areas that align directly with OpenAI’s mission and expertise.

Altman’s foresight, leadership, and commitment to ethical AI development have established him as a pioneering figure in the AI industry. His journey so far serves as an inspiration for countless entrepreneurs and technologists around the world.

In conclusion, Sam Altman has played a profound role in shaping the world of startups and artificial intelligence. With his consistent focus on creating beneficial and safe AGI, Altman is undoubtedly leading the way towards a future where AI has a transformative social impact.