The Wall Street Journal stated that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is seeking trillions of dollars in funding to restructure the global semiconductor business. Altman has long discussed the supply-and-demand issue with AI chips—many AI companies want them, but there aren’t enough to go around—and how that restricts OpenAI’s growth.
According to a Thursday evening story in The Wall Street Journal, he is mulling a project to enhance worldwide chip-building capacity and is in talks with various investors, including the UAE government. According to one source, Altman may need to finance $5 trillion to $7 trillion for the attempt. CNBC couldn’t confirm the figure. OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment.
On Wednesday, Altman stated on X that OpenAI believes “the world needs more AI infrastructure–fab capacity, energy, datacenters, etc–than people are currently planning to build.” He also stated that “building massive-scale AI infrastructure and a resilient supply chain is critical to economic competitiveness,” and that OpenAI would try to assist.
we believe the world needs more ai infrastructure–fab capacity, energy, datacenters, etc–than people are currently planning to build.
building massive-scale ai infrastructure, and a resilient supply chain, is crucial to economic competitiveness.
openai will try to help!
— Sam Altman (@sama) February 7, 2024
The announcement follows considerable controversy over Altman’s earlier chip ventures and investments. Prior to his brief departure as CEO of OpenAI, Altman was purportedly pursuing billions of dollars for a new semiconductor startup code-named “Tigris” that would eventually compete with Nvidia, traveling to the Middle East to solicit funds from investors.
In 2018, Altman personally invested in Rain Neuromorphics, an AI chip firm situated near OpenAI’s San Francisco headquarters, and in 2019, OpenAI signed a letter of intent to invest $51 million in Rain’s chips. In December, the US forced a Saudi Aramco-backed venture capital firm to sell its Rain shares.
Nvidia has been the biggest moneymaker throughout the past year’s generative AI boom, with its market capitalization more than tripling by 2023. The company’s GPUs fuel language models developed by OpenAI, Alphabet, Meta, and other well-funded firms in the generative AI space.
Nvidia presently has 80% of the AI chip industry and has a market capitalization of $1.72 trillion. It is on track to surpass tech titans like Amazon and Alphabet. Altman is most likely looking to change that.
When OpenAI debuted ChatGPT in November 2022, the company had a limited amount of GPUs and capacity and saw itself primarily as a developer and business tool provider, according to OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap.
When it came to publishing its now-viral ChatGPT bot, Lightcap remembered Altman as a huge proponent of “just trying it,” with the premise that text-based contact with models was crucial and intimate.
The move paid handsomely. According to OpenAI, ChatGPT shattered records as the fastest-growing consumer app in history and today has over 100 million weekly active users, as well as more than 92% of Fortune 500 firms using the platform.
Last November, OpenAI’s board removed Altman, prompting resignations — or threats of resignations — including an open letter signed by nearly all of OpenAI’s employees, as well as outrage from investors such as Microsoft.
Altman returned to work for the organization within a week. OpenAI has since established a new board, which includes former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo. Microsoft obtained a nonvoting board observer position, and the corporation intends to add more seats.
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