- Elon Musk took credit for the existence of OpenAI and said he came up with the startup’s name.
- Musk was an OpenAI cofounder and invested $50 million into the company. He left the startup in 2018.
- He criticized OpenAI’s business model and its relationship with Microsoft, one of its current investors.
Elon Musk appears to be split about how he feels about OpenAI.
Musk expressed concerns about OpenAI while simultaneously taking credit for the existence of the AI startup behind ChatGPT.
“I am the reason OpenAI exists,” Musk told CNBC’s David Faber in a Tuesday interview.
Musk told CNBC he invested around $50 million at the time and was “instrumental” in recruiting key scientists and engineers. He also the brain behind its name, he said.
“I came up with the name,” Musk told CNBC. He added OpenAI, which started out as a non-profit, refers to “open source.”
Musk was an early investor in OpenAI — he and the startup’s current CEO, Sam Altman, were two of the cofounders back in 2015.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO left OpenAI’s board in 2018 — a year before it became a “capped-profit” company — and is now a vocal critic of the startup.
In February, Musk slammed OpenAI for becoming a “maximum profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft,” which was not what he “intended at all.”
“It does seem weird that something can be a non-profit, open source and somehow transform itself into a for-profit, closed source,” he told CNBC’s Faber. “This would be like, let’s say you found an organization to save the Amazon rainforest, and instead they become a lumber company, and chop down the forest, and sold it for money.”
Microsoft invested $1 billion into OpenAI in 2019. It followed up with a “multibillion-dollar” investment in January 2023. The latest investment amount wasn’t publicly disclosed, but Semafor reported it was about $10 billion.
Musk told CNBC Microsoft could “cut off OpenAI” at any point and has a lot of control over the startup.
“I also think it’s important to understand when push comes to shove — let’s say they create some digital super-intelligence, almost god-like intelligence, who’s in control? What is exactly the relationship between OpenAI and Microsoft?”
Musk has also publicly voiced warnings about AI, saying the technology is a “danger to the public.” In March, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX signed an open letter alongside Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, AI experts, and scientists calling for a six-month pause on advanced AI development.
About 27,000 people have signed the open letter so far.
Despite his public stance, Musk is setting up his own generative AI company called X.AI, the Financial Times reported on April 14. He’s also advancing an AI project within Twitter, Insider’s Kali Hays reported on April 11.
OpenAI, Microsoft, and Musk did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours.