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January 23, 2024
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Sam Altman: Breaking Into the Chip Industry?


  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is reportedly in discussions with Middle Eastern investors and Taiwanese chip giant TSMC to launch a new chip venture for AI workloads.
  • The venture aims to develop and fabricate chips integral for training and building AI models.
  • The discussions are in the early stages, and partners and funders have not been confirmed.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, is reportedly in talks with key Middle Eastern investors and TSMC to launch a new chip venture for accelerating AI workloads, according to the Financial Times. The plan involves developing and fabricating chips specifically designed for training and building AI models. Altman’s initiative is driven by concerns over a potential shortage of AI-specific chips, as demand is expected to surpass production forecasts. This approach sets Altman apart from industry peers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, who typically design their own silicon and outsource production. The discussions are still in the early stages, and the full list of partners and funders remains unconfirmed.

The need for this venture arises from a predicted surge in AI applications and the resulting demand for computing power. Altman aims to secure enough chip supply for the late 2020s by reducing OpenAI’s reliance on Nvidia. The venture involves collaboration with influential figures like Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the UAE, who oversees significant investment funds and entities in Abu Dhabi and is involved with G42, an AI company collaborating with Microsoft and OpenAI.

Industry analysts have voiced concerns about Altman’s intentions to move OpenAI into the semiconductor business. However, there is no indication that OpenAI is directly involved in the chipmaking discussions. Altman has a history of active investment and has funded more than 400 companies through various ventures. Regardless of OpenAI’s involvement, the company stands to benefit from the chip venture as a primary customer. This move by Altman signals a strategic shift in the AI accelerator space toward self-reliance in semiconductor production.

The news also raises questions about how OpenAI views Nvidia competitors AMD and Intel. AMD recently announced its MI-300 series of AI accelerators, while Intel’s Gaudi3 is expected to be announced soon. Altman’s move towards chip development reflects a broader trend in the AI industry towards vertical integration and hardware customization. If the venture comes to fruition, it could pave the way for innovation and competition in both the AI and semiconductor industries, with significant implications for the development and application of AI technologies.

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