Twitch co-founder and former CEO Emmett Shear is taking the reins at OpenAI.
If you’re not caught up on the OpenAI saga, here’s a good explainer. But the tl;dr is: this past Friday, OpenAI (the company responsible for generative AIs like ChatGPT and DALL-E) abruptly fired its CEO Sam Altman, allegedly because of a disagreement over profitability between him and OpenAI’s researchers, and because he was “not consistently candid” with the company’s board.
After a leadership scramble over the weekend, there were talks to bring Altman back in, but those apparently fell through. Earlier today, Microsoft confirmed it’s tapped Altman and Greg Brockman, who co-founded OpenAI and was removed as its president alongside Altman, to lead a new AI team.
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That left OpenAI with an open position–and it’s filling that position with Shear.
Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of @OpenAI. After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted. I had recently resigned from my role as CEO of Twitch due to the birth of my…
— Emmett Shear (@eshear) November 20, 2023
“Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of @OpenAI,” he tweeted. “After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted.”
Shear left Twitch in March, saying he wanted to spend more time with his newborn son. He was succeeded by Dan Clancy, who’s been putting in a lot more facetime with Twitch streamers than Shear did during his term, and seems to be open to fixing some of their longtime pain points.
Shear says he has spent time with his son, and that it’s been “every bit as rewarding as I thought it would be.”
“I was happily avoiding full time employment,” he says. “I took this job because I believe OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence. When the board shared the situation and asked me to take the role, I did not make the decision lightly. Ultimately I felt that I had a duty to help if I could.”
Shear went on to lay out a roadmap, saying that “the process and communications around Sam’s removal has been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust.”
That trust is important, because Microsoft holds a major stake in OpenAI–reportedly as much as 49%.
Shear says he plans to hire an independent investigator to “generate a full report” about everything that happened leading up to Altman’s firing. He also plans to reform the management and leadership team, and to speak to “as many of our employees, partners, investors, and customers as possible.”
He says he expects many of these opening actions will take “longer than a month to achieve true progress.”