OpenAI’s ouster of CEO Sam Altman and the subsequent resignation of president Greg Brockman shocked the entire tech world — including OpenAI’s own investors.
Four sources with direct knowledge told Forbes that key venture capital backers of OpenAI were not given advanced warning of the news.
“This is insane,” an investor familiar with the matter said.
A source close to Vinod Khosla said he did not know about the ouster prior to the announcement; Khosla declined to comment. His firm Khosla Ventures invested in OpenAI in 2019.
Reid Hoffman, an early investor who previously sat on OpenAI’s board of directors, was also not made aware of the news, per a source. Hoffman declined to comment through a spokesperson.
Microsoft, which has invested more than $10 billion into OpenAI, learned of Altman’s firing and dismissal from the board only one minute before the news was shared in a press release, according to an Axios report.
Thrive Capital — which conducted a tender offer to purchase employee shares in April and was in talks to buy more at a $80 billion valuation last month, according to The Information — did not respond to a request for comment.
Initial investors at OpenAI’s 2015 launch, when it was still a nonprofit, included Hoffman, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Amazon Web Services as well as Altman and Brockman themselves. Now, OpenAI’s corporate structure involves a for-profit AI company controlled by a non-profit umbrella organization. Investors in the for-profit business agree to a ceiling on their return on investment; for the initial investors, the cap was 100x. According to PitchBook, later investors have included Andreessen Horowitz, Bedrock Capital, Sequoia and Tiger Global.