VCs weigh in on the chaos unfolding at OpenAI, rallying behind ousted CEO Sam Altman: 'I hope the board can get its act together'

  • OpenAI's board ousted Sam Altman, its chief executive, on Friday.

  • The news shocked Silicon Valley. Many VCs expressed support for Altman.

  • Now, OpenAI may be trying to hire him back.

VCs this weekend have one message for Sam Altman — we're with you.

In the Friday news dump to end all Friday news dumps, the OpenAI CEO and founder was ousted by the company's board of directors, sending shockwaves through Silicon Valley.

The AI startup subsequently named chief technology officer Mira Murati its interim CEO. But by late Saturday night, the company's investors were scrambling to reinstate Altman and he was expected to join executives at the company on Sunday to discuss next steps, according to The Information.

As the drama unfolded, some of the most prominent investors in Silicon Valley have responded with an outpouring of support for Altman, questioning the decision by OpenAI's board to fire him.

"To be clear, Khosla Ventures wants @sama back at @OpenAI but will back him in whatever he does next," prolific investor Vinod Khosla — who was an early backer of OpenAI — posted Saturday night on X. ("sama" is Altman's handle on the social media platform.)

"Sam should get his job back, the board of directors should be replaced by founders and investors who have skin in the game," posted Craft Ventures' David Sachs. "In other words, undo all the shenanigans."

In another X post, he called on OpenAI's board to explain in more detail why they fired Altman.

When it announced Altman's firing on Friday, OpenAI — the company behind ChatGPT — said its board is "no longer confident in his ability to continue leading OpenAI," and that the founder was "not consistently candid in his communications."

"We are grateful for Sam's many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI," the board said in a statement. "At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward."

The fear that AI could one day destroy humanity could have also played a role in Altman's ouster, Insider previously reported. The former CEO was a poster child for rapid AI innovation, while cofounder Ilya Sutskever — a board member who played a role in Altman's firing — has fought to better mitigate the threats AI might pose to society. It appears that Sutskever was concerned with Altman's push to accelerate and commercialize OpenAI's technology so quickly.

But that internal rift might not be enough to keep Altman away for good. By Saturday night, following several senior leadership resignations, the company announced it was "optimistic" it could bring Altman back into the fold, according to an internal memo sent by Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon, The Information first reported.

As of Sunday afternoon, however, Altman's return seems to be far from a done deal. He's already whipping up a frenzy of interested investors in a potential new AI startup, The Information reported, and he and supporters, including ex-president Greg Bockman and ChatGPT's X account, have all posted cryptic heart emojis to social media.

Whatever the outcome, many VCs said they'll follow Atlman wherever he goes, though they hope he returns to OpenAI.

'The reason I was a founding donor to OpenAI in 2015 was not because I was interested in AI, but because I believed in Sam," investor Jessica Livingston posted on X. "So I hope the board can get its act together and bring Sam and Greg back."

Another VC, who declined to be named, told Business Insider: "The argument that Microsoft can't allow OpenAI to fade or fail has come up amongst smart circles in the know. I hope Sam retakes OpenAI."

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