Powerfully Creating OpenAI, the Company

A number of prominent supporters have come together to create a new company called OpenAI. They are Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel to be exact.

OpenAI’s Mission is stated as, “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”

This mission is helping attract and retain desirable talent. One recount states that 9 of 10 researchers that were offered positions at OpenAI accepted and turned down excessively lucrative counter offers from their existing employers. It appears they did this because of the mission. Not because of the money. Of course, there is money, I’m sure they are paid very well. And, most interestingly, there are other perks like the potential to get stock options from companies run by the benefactors of OpenAI and that’s not a shabby list by any means.

For the mission, less short-term cash, the support of very prominent people, an awesome projects and relatively solid upside potential from a portfolio stock option ownership approach people have committed to OpenAI. This is extremely interesting! Especially interesting is the portfolio options approach. Imagine that by working at OpenAI you get stock in Y-Combinator and SpaceX (two possibles that were named) in addition to your options package OpenAI itself.

One of the new employees said (emphasis mine)

“Zaremba says those borderline crazy offers actually turned him off — despite his enormous respect for companies like Google and Facebook. He felt like the money was at least as much of an effort to prevent the creation of OpenAI as a play to win his services, and it pushed him even further towards the startup’s magnanimous mission. “I realized,” Zaremba says, “that OpenAI was the best place to be.”

Brockman, leading OpenAI, says, “You want a shared vision, without central control.” This is also extremely wise and extremely rare.

OpenAI is something to keep an eye on and already teaching a powerful way to create and staff a company in a hyper competitive environment.