Sam Altman is actually winning despite all the OpenAI drama

Sam Altman's face repeated three times.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images;Chelsea Jia Feng/BI
  • OpenAI is facing a wave of controversy over safety concerns and its commitment to responsible AI.

  • But CEO Sam Altman keeps racking up wins regardless.

  • Altman told staff the company's annualized revenue was $3.4 billion, The Information reported.

Nothing seems to stop the AI boy king.

Amid a torrent of bad publicity surrounding the artificial-intelligence startup OpenAI, the company's wunderkind CEO, Sam Altman, stays winning.

The Information reported Wednesday that Altman recently told OpenAI staff the company's annualized revenue was $3.4 billion, and Bloomberg cited an unnamed source who confirmed this number. The startup's annualized revenue was $1.6 billion in late 2023, The Information previously reported.

The company's rapid growth suggests OpenAI is still the gold standard for AI innovation even as competition heats up in the sector. OpenAI was most recently valued at about $86 billion.

A representative for OpenAI didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider but told The Information the reported financial details were "inaccurate" without offering further information.

Altman told employees that while the majority of OpenAI's revenue was coming from subscriptions to its chatbots, the company was also pocketing money from its Microsoft partnership, which was bringing in about $200 million annually, The Information reported.

Reporting on OpenAI's revenue growth came just two days after Apple announced an anticipated AI partnership with the company. The collaboration is set to integrate OpenAI's ChatGPT with Apple's new and improved Siri feature, introducing the chatbot to billions of devices if users opt in to the integration.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that neither company was expected to make direct revenue as a result of the agreement; people familiar with the deal said Apple thought introducing OpenAI technology to its devices was a fair enough price to pay.

Following Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, BI's Alex Bitter posited that Altman was the real winner of the global tech conference. The Apple partnership represents a huge endorsement of both OpenAI and Altman at a time when the startup is facing scrutiny over its commitment to safety.

Earlier this month, a group of current and former OpenAI employees went public in a New York Times report with concerns about the company's financial motivations and approach to safety. The whistleblowers accused OpenAI of making false promises over its commitment to developing responsible AI, suggesting the company had prioritized growth and profits over safety.

Multiple high-profile employees have also left OpenAI in recent months, including Jan Leike, who oversaw the company's superalignment strategy, and the chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, who expressed concerns about Altman's leadership last year, reports say.

OpenAI has also found itself entangled in conflict with the Hollywood A-lister Scarlett Johansson, who skewered the company for launching a new AI model with a voice that sounded suspiciously like hers. The company denied that it meant to impersonate Johansson's voice, but the similarities were stark, and Altman exacerbated the situation by posting "her" on X in an apparent reference to the 2013 film by the same name in which Johansson voices an AI virtual assistant.

But even as controversy swirls around OpenAI, the company keeps racking up wins. Maribel Lopez, an AI analyst who founded the research and strategy consulting firm Lopez Research, attributed Altman's Teflon-like success to a series of smart business decisions the 39-year-old CEO has made.

"OpenAI was largely ahead on foundation models. They're perceived as having had it longer and doing it well," Lopez told BI, referring to the company's GPT models.

"The second reason is their relationship with Microsoft, which gives people confidence that they might be enterprise-ready," Lopez added, referencing the standard that many models must meet for adoption.

She said OpenAI's new partnership with Apple had only increased the company's reputation and power in the industry.

On Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook praised OpenAI for ChatGPT's "world knowledge," calling the company the "best" in the business.

Read the original article on Business Insider