Microsoft Invested Billions in ChatGPT Maker OpenAI — So, Who Owns It?

OpenAI, the maker of the AI tool ChatGPT, is owned by a group of technology entrepreneurs. It has received multiple investments from Microsoft.

Danielle Letenyei - Author

May 15 2023, Updated 2:15 p.m. ET

White OpenAI logo on a black background.
Source: OpenAI

Microsoft announced in January 2023 that it plans to invest $10 billion in artificial intelligence company OpenAI, according to CNBC. Some see the move as a way for Microsoft to compete with search engine giant Google. If Microsoft follows through with its investment, it would be the third round of funding it provided the AI research laboratory.

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OpenAI has been the talk of the tech world recently for its text-based AI tool ChatGPT. Launched on Nov. 30, 2022, ChatGPT is a chatbot that uses AI technology to answer questions, write essays, provide customer service, and even help with math homework. Just type in your request, and bam! ChatGPT will produce a lengthy response in just seconds.

Given the advancements OpenAI has made, particularly with ChatGPT, many people want to know who owns the company. Here's what we know.

A blue AI board.
Source: Getty Images
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Who owns OpenAI?

OpenAI is owned by a group of technology entrepreneurs who have been involved with other startups such as LinkedIn, Y Combinator, PayPal, and Tesla. OpenAI’s co-founders include:

  • Sam Altman – CEO, former president of Y Combinator

  • Greg Brockman – President, formerly of Stripe

  • Reid Hoffman – also a co-founder of LinkedIn

  • Ilya Sutskever – former Google expert

  • Peter Thiel – who also co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies

  • Jessica Livingston – founding partner of Y Combinator

  • Elon Musk – co-founder of Tesla, SpaceX, Starlink, Neuralink, and The Boring Company

The group came together in December 2015 and pledged more than $1 billion to launch OpenAI. According to the company website, the goal of OpenAI is to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstraint by a need to generate financial return.”

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Two OpenAI co-founders, Elon Musk and Sam Altman, being interviewed during 'Vanity Fair' summit.
Source: Getty Images

Two OpenAI co-founders Elon Musk and Sam Altman

How is Elon Musk involved with OpenAI?

Musk was one of the co-founders of OpenAI, but he resigned from the company’s board of directors in December 2018. He left to avoid a conflict of interest between OpenAI’s work and Tesla’s machine learning research to develop autonomous driving, The Verge reported.

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“As Tesla continues to become more focused on AI, this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon,” states a blog post on the OpenAI website. Musk continues to donate and advise the company.

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Musk has been public about his wariness of advanced AI and its possible dangers. In a Dec. 3, 2022 tweet, he called ChatGPT “scary good.” However, in another tweet on Dec. 4, he said he paused OpenAI’s access to the Twitter database.

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“Need to understand more about governance structure and revenue plans going forward. OpenAI was started as open-source and non-profit. Neither are still true,” Musk said in the tweet.

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What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a language-generation platform that interacts conversationally with users. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.

People are using ChatGPT for a number of tasks, such as writing stories, composing cover letters and resumes, building business proposals, coding software, and even writing poetry and song lyrics. The platform reached 1 million users five days after it was released.

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OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman warns users not to use ChatGPT for "anything important."

“ChatGPT is incredibly limited but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness. It's a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. it’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness,” Altman tweeted on Dec. 10, 2022.

If you've ever experimented with ChatGPT, you likely noticed the small font at the bottom of the prompt screen that reads, "ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts." That's because ChatGPT will occasionally provide you with inaccurate information (we have firsthand experience).

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