OpenAI burst onto the artificial intelligence scene in 2015 with lofty goals: ensuring that AI benefits all of humanity. OpenAI, co-founded by tech legends such as Elon Musk and Sam Altman, quickly made waves in the AI world. But years later, OpenAI still has a relatively small team. How many employees does OpenAI actually have?
OpenAI in numbers
According to OpenAI’s own released information, the company currently employs approximately people 770 people. Compared to tech titans like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, which employ tens of thousands of people, OpenAI’s workforce seems small.
However, these numbers indicate a deliberate strategy and not chance. As a pioneer in artificial general intelligence (AGI) research, OpenAI attracts the world’s leading AI researchers. The company selects a ‘small’ team of experts in areas such as computer vision, robotics, machine learning and synthetic biology. This tight-knit group of leading researchers drives OpenAI’s progress in developing secure AGI for the benefit of humanity.
So while OpenAI isn’t nearly as big as Big Tech, they focus their team on targeted impact. Even with 770 employees, OpenAI’s record of research achievements surpasses many AI labs in just a few years.
read also: Open AI Leadership: unveiling the new faces at OpenAI
The All-Star selection behind OpenAI
Speaking of performance, OpenAI’s elite team deserves a deeper discussion. As you might expect, OpenAI employees represent a powerful roster of AI luminaries from both research and industry:
- Sam Altman – Co-founder and former president
- Ilya Sutskever – Co-founder and Chief Scientist
- Greg Brockman – Co-Founder and Chief Scientist
- Dario Amodei – VP Research
- Tom Brown – Co-lead of the Machine Learning team
Technical fellows and researchers
- Andrej Karpathy – AI Safety Technician
- John Schulman – Research Scientist
- Pieter Abbeel – Robotics researcher
- Szymon Sidor – Research Scientist
- Jakub Pachocki – Senior Research Engineer
- Christopher Berner – Research Engineer
- Rewon Child – Machine Learning Researcher
With such brilliant minds on board across the AI spectrum, OpenAI is making rapid progress in translating theoretical work into practical applications. This is evident in recent years alone from breakthroughs such as GPT-3, Protein Folding and DALL-E.
Balance between nonprofit research and for-profit ventures
Initially, OpenAI started as a non-profit research group exploring the AI frontier. But in March 2019, the laboratory announced the creation of a new one for profit poor to balance open research with commercial viability.
This for-profit division builds on the nonprofit’s groundbreaking work to develop and monetize AI products and technologies. All profits then go back to funding further open research to further OpenAI’s mission for broadly useful AGI.
This hybrid business model aligns financial incentives and keeps OpenAI’s research vision pure. It also hints at the potential future growth in employee numbers as revenue-driven products become mainstream.
Also read: Is OpenAI a profit or a non-profit? Unveiling OpenAI’s hybrid identity
Funding to support more OpenAI team growth
Speaking of revenue and financial capabilities, OpenAI as a whole now runs on $1 billion in funding from contributors like:
- Sam Altman
- LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman
- Khosla Ventures
- Amazon Web Services
- Former PayPal President Peter Thiel
This funding pool gives OpenAI enough resources to expand its team of top minds. It also gives OpenAI patience to perfect its technologies before bringing them to market.
For example, GPT-3 took more than two years from initial training to regular launch. This required major near-term expenditures on cloud computing, data labeling, testing, and expanding model capabilities over time.
With long-term support, OpenAI can prioritize the quality of research over speed or early monetization. This focus ultimately benefits the technology – and any future consumers on the receiving end.
The way forward: expected growth of OpenAI teams
Given Microsoft’s recent $20 million investment just months after GPT-3 went live, we can expect OpenAI’s ranks to continue to grow selectively. Powerful models like DALL-E for synthetic imagery and future GPT iterations will only increase mainstream appetite for what OpenAI will build next.
As consumer interest in products from chatbots to automated content creation increases, OpenAI will need more engineers to maintain infrastructure integrity and production-quality reliability. Not to mention deploying robust model scaling, security, and governance before these technologies go viral.
The company will expand its expertise by choosing from academics and industry veterans with specific skills in:
- Software performance
- Low level technology
- Distributed systems
- Policy, ethics and governance
This kind of selective growth will ensure that OpenAI deploys future projects responsibly.
Of course, runaway demand isn’t guaranteed. We’ve seen waves of hype in AI fizzle out as early progress fades. But given what we’ve seen OpenAI launch over the past three years, they seem poised for increasing mainstream adoption.
If their research continues and consumers buy en masse, 400 employees clearly marks just the beginning for OpenAI’s workforce.
With only 770 employees, OpenAI’s workforce fits the bill of an agile, early-stage startup. But their elite selection and remarkable early progress make them anything but ordinary. With a viability plan secured by the nonprofit and the nonprofit in tandem, OpenAI is poised to expand its team of rock stars over time.
As this hand-picked group grows, you can expect impressive innovation that mainstreams AI and addresses potential pitfalls. If OpenAI’s clearly defined mission remains sincere, our AI future will be both bright and bright.
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