OpenAI cuts Sam Altman’s control over VC arm, Ian Hathaway appointed to lead

According to recent disclosures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), OpenAI CEO Sam Altman no longer holds ownership or control over the OpenAI Startup Fund (the AI firm’s venture capital fund). This move follows a period of scrutiny surrounding the fund’s governance, which previously placed OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in a position of ownership and control.

The recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed that this responsibility has now shifted to Ian Hathaway, a partner at the fund since its launch in 2021. Hathaway has played a central role in the day-to-day operations of the fund and overseeing its accelerator program.

OpenAI has consistently maintained that Altman did not hold any personal financial stake in the fund, despite his prior ownership. The company now frames the restructuring as a means to provide “further clarity” on the fund’s governance structure. The initial setup, where Altman held ownership while making investment decisions on behalf of external limited partners (investors who contribute capital to the fund), raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

For those who are unaware, the three-year-old OpenAI Startup Fund aims to support and accelerate the growth of promising artificial intelligence startups. Funded by external limited partners, including major tech players like Microsoft, the fund has amassed over $325 million in total commitments. While OpenAI itself isn’t an investor in the fund, it plays a role in identifying and vetting potential investment opportunities. The fund has a strong track record of backing innovative AI-focused companies, with investments in areas like computer vision (Harvey), human-computer interaction (Cursor), and speech recognition (Speak).

The restructuring of the OpenAI Startup Fund coincides with a broader period of scrutiny surrounding Altman’s involvement in various investment ventures outside of OpenAI. His investment portfolio encompasses a diverse range of sectors, including the cryptocurrency startup Worldcoin, the fusion energy company Helion Energy, and fundraising activities in the Middle East. Furthermore, an independent investigation conducted after Altman’s departure from OpenAI in November 2023 cleared him of any wrongdoing regarding product safety or financial mismanagement.

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