OpenAI CEO Sam Altman's wheeling and dealing in other tech startups could have been one of the major factors pressuring the ChatGPT-maker's board of directors to fire Altman last month. After his firing, OpenAI's staff threatened to quit, forcing the board of directors to reinstate the founder days later.
Wired published a report about Altman's ventures, including a startup named "Rain AI." He personally invested upwards of a million in the company, which develops neuromorphic processing units, or NPUs. These chips are designed to replicate the human brain. In 2019, OpenAI entered into a nonbinding agreement with Rain to purchase $51 million in NPUs once they became available.
"OpenAI's letter of intent with Rain shows how Altman's web of personal investments can entangle with his duties as OpenAI CEO," Wired wrote in the report.
The report pointed out Altman's prior role at startup incubator Y Combinator helped him as a top Silicon Valley dealmaker, "investing in dozens of startups and acting as a broker between entrepreneurs and the world's biggest companies. But the distraction and intermingling of his myriad pursuits played some role in his recent firing by OpenAI's board for uncandid communications, according to people involved in the situation but not authorized to discuss it."
According to a blog post about closed-door meetings with developers, Altman recently explained the need for advanced chips and more robust supply chains to further AI progress.
Meanwhile, at Rain, co-founder and former CEO Gordon Wilson posted last week that he has "stepped down from my position as CEO of Rain AI" after leading the startup for six years.
"I will also continue to share my own thoughts on AI and semiconductors, as these industries are central to the greatest transformations we are witnessing (and will continue to witness) across the world in this century," Wilson wrote.
Bloomberg also noted that the US government forced Saudi Aramco's investment vehicle Prosperity7 to sell its $25 million stake in the startup over national security concerns.
Other rumors show that the board might have fired Altman over working on a new chip venture to rival NVDA. Another rumor was that Altman did not inform the board about a breakthrough in artificial general intelligence.