5 Things You Might Not Know About OpenAI Founder Sam Altman: Doomsday Prepper, Donald Trump Critic And More

Zinger Key Points
  • Sam Altman co-founded OpenAI as a nonprofit to explore safe ways for artificial intelligence use.
  • Altman dropped out of college to work on a mobile app he co-created.

As the founder of ChatGPT parent company OpenAI, Sam Altman has seen increased attention in 2023. Altman grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and learned how to program thanks to taking apart a Macintosh computer at the age of 8.

Altman has founded several companies, including OpenAI, and pushed forth the growth of artificial intelligence. The entrepreneur argues that artificial intelligence is coming and people need to figure out how to live with it. 

Here are five things you might not know about Sam Altman.

College Dropout: Altman, 37, attended Stanford University, studying computer science for two years before dropping out. Altman dropped out to work on Loopt, a mobile app company he co-founded full-time.

While Altman didn’t finish school at Stanford, he would be welcomed back years later to give lectures at the school. Altman taught a series called “How to Start a Startup” in 2014.

Y Combinator: Altman is well-known for his connection to startup accelerator Y Combinator. Altman’s company Loopt was one of the first eight companies funded by Y Combinator. Each of the eight startups received $6,000 per founder. Reddit was also in the first batch of eight companies.

Loopt was sold for $43 million in 2012 to Green Dot, years after reaching a valuation of $175 million.

After Loopt, Altman continued to be connected to Y Combinator, investing money into companies as part of a new venture fund called Hydrazine Capital. Altman invested in the Series B funding round of Reddit.

In 2014, Altman became the president of Y Combinator.

Starting OpenAI: Altman co-founded OpenAI in 2015 with Elon Musk and several other investors. The company was founded as a nonprofit with the goal of making sure artificial intelligence didn’t wipe out the human race.

Musk told the New York Times in 2015 why it was important to create the company.

“We discussed 'what is the best thing we can do to ensure the future is good?'” Musk said. “We could sit on the sidelines or we can encourage regulatory oversight, or we could participate with the right structure with people who care deeply about developing A.I. in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity.”

Altman said in 2019 that OpenAI had “no idea” how it planned to make a profit and the company had “never made any revenue” and didn’t have plans to make revenue.

Altman was named CEO of OpenAI in 2019 and the company was turned from a nonprofit into a “capped profit” corporation.

The move saw Microsoft Corporation MSFT invest $1 billion in OpenAI after Altman flew to Seattle and demonstrated different AI models for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. OpenAI began focusing on natural language processing shortly after.

OpenAI has released DALL-E and ChatGPT, two generative artificial intelligence tools to the public. ChatGPT passed over 1 million users in five days after its release to the public in November 2022.

In early 2023, Microsoft invested an additional $10 billion in OpenAI.

Related Link: ChatGPT Opportunity Could Be Tens Of Billions Of Dollars Annually For Nvidia 

Doomsday Prepper: Altman has said in past interviews that he has prepped for the potential survival related to a “lethal synthetic virus,” artificial intelligence attacking humans or nuclear war.

“I try not to think about it too much, but I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force and a big patch of land in Big Sur I can fly to,” Altman said in 2016.

Altman said he was freaked out about the potential of the world ending and wanting to make sure he was prepared. The entrepreneur said the most likely scenarios that would end the world were a “super contagious” lab-modified virus or “AI that attacks us.”

Opposing Donald Trump: In October 2016, Altman posted a series of tweets sharing his personal political beliefs and the fact that he opposed the Republican presidential nominee. 

“I am voting against Trump because I believe the principles he stands for represent an unacceptable threat to America,” Altman tweeted. “I think he’s abusive, erratic, and prone to fits or rage. I think he is unfit to be President and would be a threat to national security."

Altman acknowledged that his friend and fellow investor Peter Thiel was a supporter of Trump and said Y Combinator should not fire people over the candidates they support.

“We need to talk to each other more, not less. Most people think roughly half the country is severely misguided. Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want.”

After the 2016 election, which was ultimately won by Trump, Altman decidedly to hold open talks with 100 Trump supporters to gain insight into what they liked about the president.

In 2019, Altman hosted a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. For the 2020 presidential election, Altman donated $250,000 to a political action committee that supported President Joe Biden.

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Sam Altman photo by TechCrunch via Wikimedia

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