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OpenAI shifts leadership of Startup Fund from Sam Altman to Ian Hathaway

This change brings transparency to the fund's structure and avoids potential conflicts arising from Sam Altman's dual role.

Sam Altman rehired

OpenAI has reportedly announced that Sam Altman, the company’s high-profile chief executive officer, will no longer own or control the OpenAI Startup Fund. The baton has now been passed to Ian Hathaway, a partner since the fund’s launch in 2021.

Background and Unusual Structure

The OpenAI Startup Fund has been a key player in supporting early-stage AI-driven companies across various sectors, including healthcare, law, and education. Notably, Sam Altman’s ownership and control of the fund had drawn attention due to its unconventional governance. Initially launched in 2021, the fund had Sam Altman listed as its controller. This presented a potential conflict of interest considering his position at OpenAI. Some reports noted that Sam Altman’s role at the Startup Funds would not have been a problem if he was not reinstated as the CEO of OpenAI after briefly being fired from the company in November last year.

Additionally, Sam Altman, despite being the face of the fund, raised capital from external limited partners and personally made investment decisions. However, OpenAI clarified that its chief had no financial interest in the fund, emphasizing that the initial general partner (GP) structure was a temporary arrangement.

Ian Hathaway Takes the Helm

With this recent change, Ian Hathaway assumes leadership of the fund. Hathaway, who has been involved with the fund since its inception in 2021, brings expertise in managing accelerator programs and has spearheaded investments in companies like Harvey, Cursor, Speak, and Ambience Healthcare.

This change brings transparency to the fund’s structure and avoids potential conflicts arising from Sam Altman’s dual role. The fund’s gross asset value now exceeds $325 million, up from $175 million in commitments last year, reflecting its continued growth and impact in the AI startup ecosystem. The OpenAI Startup Fund has backed at least 16 other startups, such as Descript and Ghost Autonomy, according to a TechCrunch report that cited PitchBook data.

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