Sam Altman Is Building an Opaque Investment Empire of $2.8 Billion

IBL News | New York

As The Wall Street Journal reported, Sam Altman has quietly built an empire of investments that is a direct beneficiary of the success of OpenAI.

Many of Altman’s startups do business with OpenAI as customers or major business partners. The arrangement puts Altman on both sides of the deal, creating a mounting list of potential conflicts.

The holdings controlled by OpenAI’s CEO and managed by his family office are worth at least $2.8 billion, and much of the portfolio is widely unknown.

At OpenAI, a startup valued at $86 billion, the 39-year-old entrepreneur earns just $65,000 a year.

Altman and his venture funds have invested in over 400 companies, including big names like Stripe, Airbnb, and Reddit. He has a debt line from JPMorgan Chase, which allows him to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into private companies.

• For example, OpenAI is in talks for a deal with Helion, a nuclear-energy startup chaired by Altman. In this deal, Helion would buy vast quantities of electricity to provide power for data centers. Altman invested $375 million in Helion in 2021. The startup signed on with Microsoft, its first customer and OpenAI’s largest investor, last year.

Altman has recused himself from the deal talks between OpenAI and Helion, which haven’t been previously reported.

• Last month, OpenAI announced a partnership with Reddit to pay to bring the messaging site’s content to ChatGPT and other AI products. Altman and the entities he controls own 7.6% of Reddit, making him the third-largest outside shareholder, and he briefly served as its CEO in 2014.

Reddit’s stock shot up 10% after the announcement, boosting Altman’s stake by $69 million to $754 million. OpenAI said in a blog post that Altman didn’t lead the partnership talks.

• Altman’s recent investments have focused on companies that aim to capitalize on the artificial intelligence boom driven by OpenAI. Apex Security, in which Altman invested an undisclosed amount last summer, aims to sell cybersecurity software to companies using AI products such as ChatGPT.

• He also invested an undisclosed amount in Exowatt, a startup tackling the clean-energy needs of big data centers used by AI companies.

• He is an investor in Limitless, an AI startup that offers a device worn like a necklace that can record and transcribe conversations and also uses OpenAI’s software.

The founder of Limitless, Dan Siroker, said Altman invested in his company, formerly called Rewind, long before it began using OpenAI’s technology.