Tech

From Billionaire Backlash to Billion-Dollar Wishlists: Sam Altman’s Silicon Valley Saga

Altman was recently noticed looking down at his wrist during a 2018 Wired event.

After continuing to peel off the skin, someone discovered that he was wearing a very luxurious-looking gold watch at the time.

According to data from luxury watch websites and multiple sources of information, this watch is a limited edition watch sold by Greubel Forsey in 2008, with only 33 pieces produced worldwide.
In 2008, this watch was sold for 520,000 Swiss francs, which was approximately $480,000 at the exchange rate at the time.

Luxury watch website KeepTheTime said that this kind of watch is difficult to see on the market. Even if you buy it at the retail price, it is difficult to buy it and it is a collector-level watch.
This is of course not just Altman’s only luxury watch.
He also owns a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar 1526, one of which was sold at Christie’s in 2017 for $106,250.
At this year’s congressional hearing, he also wore this watch when he demonstrated the need for AI regulation.

Subsequently, more revelations spread. In addition to wearing a $480,000 watch, he also drove a $15 million luxury car and owned multiple properties.

Just this month, he was spotted driving a red McLaren F1. This car was sold at auction in 2015 for a whopping $15 million.
Altman also reportedly owns a Lexus LFA race car, one of which recently sold at auction for $1.1 million.

In addition, in just 18 months, Altman has accumulated a staggering $85 million real estate empire.
From a $43 million historic estate in Hawaii to multimillion-dollar mansions in San Francisco and Napa, Altman’s portfolio is as diverse as it is luxurious.

Business Insider previously reported that, according to IRS documents, as the CEO of OpenAI, his annual salary is only $58,333, and his equity in the company is very small.
However, he has invested in more than 400 companies in nine years, designing commercial flights, brain implants and other fields.

Altman’s Hawaiian estate sits adjacent to King Kamehameha I’s royal temple
As Altman’s wealth grows, he gradually distances himself from the daily life of a “non-super-rich person.” In March, his mother told the WSJ that Altman had not been to a grocery store in four or five years. In 2021, he also hired his cousin to manage the family finances.
While everyone was talking about it, Altman actually responded online——
“I think I like these beautiful things made by humans, which are helpful for AI safety.”
“But if you want to take the opportunity to criticize me, I can only say I’m sorry, I have such good taste.”

In this regard, netizens said: Obviously, the logarithm of wealth (logwealth) exists – if you want to double the happiness brought by money, you need to increase your wealth tenfold.
Going from $1 million to $10 million can completely change a person’s life, while going from $10 million to $20 million is only slightly more satisfying.

Every time there is a trough, Silicon Valley bosses come to the rescue.

Three times, Altman lost the confidence of senior leaders in the companies he led, but each time he bounced back to greater heights.
Why is Altman able to turn danger into disaster every time?
Recently, WSJ published a long article after interviewing dozens of executives, engineers, former and current employees, and investors, revealing Altman’s secret to dodging bullets—that is, winning the help of Silicon Valley bosses.

Minutes after Sam Altman was fired from the OpenAI board, he texted his billionaire friend, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, “How cruel.”
Later that day, Chesky told Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest partner, “Sam has the support of the entire Silicon Valley.”
This statement is not an exaggeration.
In just one weekend, Altman successfully assembled some of the most influential CEOs and investors in Silicon Valley, including Vinod Khosla, OpenAI’s first venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and Ron, an early investor in Google and Facebook. Conway, and Microsoft CEO Nadella.
A few days later, Altman successfully returned to OpenAI and served as CEO again.
The story of being fired, then quickly reversing his fortunes, was one that would repeat itself throughout Altman’s career.
His story has followed this pattern since he dropped out of Stanford in 2005, earning him a reputation as a “Silicon Valley visionary.”
In the past two decades, he has lost the trust of senior leaders three times and reversed it three times. With the help of his ever-expanding circle of boss friends, he has continued to transform into a more powerful role.

In 2014, Sam Altman, then president of Y Combinator, gave a speech in New York
Two months before quitting Y Combinator, Altman wrote on his blog: “The big secret is that you can bend the world to your will in a surprisingly short time.”
The first time: he was kicked out by his employees, but the board of directors chose to keep him
Altman first founded Loopt after dropping out of Stanford at the age of 19.
At his first startup, Loopt, Altman once caused dissatisfaction among a group of senior employees due to “deceptive and chaotic behavior.”
Some people complained that Altman was engaged in side projects, and once directly transferred engineers to work on a “gay dating app”. Executives believed that this harmed the company’s progress.
They twice urged board members to fire him as CEO, responsible for resigning en masse.
Mark Jacobstein, chief operating officer of Loopt and co-founder of Jimini Health, said, “If he thinks something can be done, in his eyes it becomes true. This is very important for entrepreneurs who want to do super ambitious things. is an extraordinary characteristic. This can cause a person to overextend themselves and thus make others uncomfortable.”

Additionally, one of the most important relationships Altman built at Loopt was with Sequoia, whose partner Greg McAdoo served on Loopt’s board and invested in Y Combinator.
While at Loopt, Altman also became an angel investor for Redshirt and helped Redshirt make its first investment in payments company Stripe, which is now one of the most valuable startups in the United States.
With the support of investors from the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, the board retained Altman’s position until 2012, when Loopt was sold.

The second time: leaning towards OpenAI caused public outrage, and relying on oneself to save the day
Two years later, Altman unexpectedly became the head of the startup incubator Y Combinator.
Y Combinator helped create Airbnb and Dropbox, and its co-founder is Paul Graham.
Graham praised Altman and compared him to Jobs, saying they were among the few people with such strong willpower that they would definitely get what they wanted.
This job as president of the incubator made Altman the center of power in Silicon Valley.
It was here that he helped Chesky create Airbnb’s astonishing rise and discovered numerous promising startups that made tech moguls a fortune.
Paul Graham strongly recommended Altman to lead Y Combinator in 2014, a decision that shocked people in the Silicon Valley industry. At that time, Altman had never successfully run a startup.
Still, Altmann set high goals – to expand the family business into a business empire.

He does up to 20 matchmaking sessions a day, helping people in the Y Combinator track connect. He helped Greg Brockman, the former chief technology officer of Stripe, successfully sell his shares to buyers including Y Combinator for a high price.
Under his leadership, Altman built Y Combinator into an investment powerhouse.
While serving as president, he also ran his own venture capital firm, Hydrazine, which he founded in 2012.
He stoked tensions after banning other Y Combinator partners, including current CEO Garry Tan and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, from running their own investment funds.
Altman has also expanded Y Combinator through a nonprofit he created called YC Research, which serves as an incubator for Altman’s own projects, including OpenAI.

Since its founding in 2015, YC Research has operated without the involvement of the firm’s long-term partners, fueling the board’s concerns that Altman was straying from the company’s core business operations.
At this time, Altman believes that OpenAI is fully prepared to make major breakthroughs in the field of AI, including general artificial intelligence.
That is, in 2015, Altman invited Ilya Sutskever, a working Google scientist, to join OpenAI, and subsequently attracted outstanding researchers from around the world to join.

In early 2018, Altman almost stopped showing up at Y Combinator’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, and focused most of his energy on OpenAI, then a small research nonprofit, according to people familiar with the matter.
In response, Altman’s behavior angered Y Combinator’s long-term partners and lost confidence in its leadership, collectively inviting resignations.
In March 2019, Altman himself resigned as president.
However, the way to save the day this time was that Altman himself proposed that he transfer from president to chairman, and preemptively published a blog post on the company’s website announcing the decision.
But the firm’s partners never agreed to the change, and the announcement was later removed from the blog post.
The third time: The palace battle drama was almost eliminated and won 95% of public support
Just during Thanksgiving, we witnessed Altman’s third “exile.”
As early as early October, OpenAI’s chief scientist had been in contact with board members, suggesting that the board fire Altman and citing more than 20 examples of Altman misleading OpenAI executives.
After weeks of closed-door talks, Altman was ousted en masse and unexpectedly before Thanksgiving.
Not surprisingly, Altman made a comeback again.
After being fired, most of OpenAI’s employees signed a high-profile joint letter threatening the board of directors to resign themselves.

As a talented dealmaker, talent scout, and salesman, Altman’s talents have turned OpenAI into a company valued at $86 billion. He clearly succeeded in inspiring loyalty among his employees.
At present, the drama of “Palace Fight” has come to an end for the time being.
OpenAI’s management will come under scrutiny in the coming months. Two new board members have hired a law firm to conduct an external investigation into the causes of the recent turmoil at the company, including Altman’s performance as CEO and the board’s reasons for firing him.
A spokesperson for OpenAI said, “The senior leadership team unanimously requested that Sam return as CEO and the board of directors resign, and more than 95% of employees signed a joint letter expressing support for this. Having so much public support proves that Altman is a Effective CEO”.
Specifically, at OpenAI, Altman was responsible for recruiting talent, driving important research breakthroughs, and raising $13 billion in funding from Microsoft.
Chief scientist Sutskever was responsible for leading the development of large language models, laying the technical foundation for the AI ​​chatbot that later became popular around the world – ChatGPT.

As the company expanded, dissatisfaction with Altman’s management style began to surface.
Earlier this fall, Sutskever, a board member, expressed dissatisfaction with Altman’s promotion of Jakub Pachocki to research director, according to people familiar with the matter.
According to people familiar with the matter, Sutskever informed colleagues on the board of directors, believing that the incident was consistent with Altman’s tendency to pit employees against each other or to make resource and responsibility changes for two executives at the same time. commitment, thereby causing conflict.
Alex Weingarten, an attorney representing Sutskever, said in a statement: “Ilya has accepted responsibility for his actions as a board member and has made it clear that he believes Sam is the right person to lead OpenAI forward.” He also pointed out that there are many questions about Sutskever’s behavior. Some descriptions were inaccurate, but it was not specified which descriptions were incorrect.
Altman said that he manages OpenAI in a “dynamic” way, sometimes temporarily assigning a person in charge, but then hiring someone else to officially take over the position. He is also known to move computing resources from one team to another with little advance notice.
Other board members have expressed concerns about Altman’s management style. For example, Tasha McCauley and others often communicate with OpenAI executives without informing Altman in advance.
But during the pandemic, Altman told the board he needed to be notified if a member was coming into contact with employees. This request was also viewed by some board members as Altman’s attempt to limit the board’s power.
As Sutskever publicly aired his dissatisfaction, people familiar with the matter said OpenAI’s independent board members heard similar concerns from top company executives. Some people even considered leaving because they were dissatisfied with Altman’s leadership style.

According to people familiar with the matter, Altman misled the board of directors and made one member mistakenly believe that another member wanted to kick Helen Toner out.
The board was uncomfortable with Altman’s use of his influence in Silicon Valley, so when it came time to fire him, they decided to keep it a secret until the very last moment — notifying OpenAI’s most important partner, Microsoft, in the last few minutes.
The board said in a statement that Altman had failed to “consistently be candid” and therefore lost their trust, without providing further details.
After being fired, Altman returned to his 9,500-square-foot mansion in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood with bird’s-eye views of the city.

Soon after, Chesky, one of the important allies, had a video call with Altman and Brockman, who voluntarily quit the company to express his support for Altman.
Chesky asked Altman about the specific reasons for his firing. Altman speculates that this may be related to a dispute between him and Toner, or Sutskever’s dissatisfaction.
After confirming that this was not a criminal matter, Chesky called Microsoft CEO Nadella.
Meanwhile, a small group of influential figures in Silicon Valley, including Chesky and Conway, were advising Altman and trying to negotiate with the board over the phone.
Subsequently, the board of directors appointed Emmett Shear, who came from outside OpenAI, as interim CEO.
Although this decision caused most employees to threaten to resign, in fact, Shear was Chesky’s ally and mentor.
Ultimately, Chesky and Shear worked together to clear the way for Altman to return to the top of the company.
Altman solicits 2024 wish list online

Back to the present time, on the occasion of Christmas, Sam Altman also transformed into “Santa Claus” online, asking netizens to list their wish list for OpenAI next year.

In just 2 minutes, netizens from all walks of life made wishes: AGI!
Even Altman himself did not expect that everyone would be so vocal about general artificial intelligence.
However, he said, “I’m sorry to disappoint everyone, I don’t think we will be able to achieve this goal next year…”

Not long after, Altman announced the projects most requested by netizens as follows:
– General Artificial Intelligence (AGI) (please be patient)

-GPT-5

– Better voice mode

– More requests

– Stronger GPTs

– More rigorous logical reasoning

– Control the “emergence level” and behavioral performance of AI

– Video function

– Personalized customization

– Better web browsing experience

– “Log in with OpenAI account”

– open source code

He himself said that there are actually many other things that are exciting enough for him, but they were not mentioned this time.
For example, in September 2021, he predicted that the costs of AI and energy would drop significantly.
Today, Altman says he feels good about this forecast, saying there has been very significant progress and changes in the past 27 months.
The cost of intelligence and energy will be on the road to near zero.
Of course, we won’t be able to achieve it all within this decade, but by 2030, the AI ​​revolution and renewables + nuclear energy will clearly get us there.

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