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Who created ChatGPT? – and who owns OpenAI?

How was the impressive chatbot that we know and love created?

Reviewed By: Steve Hook

Last Updated on March 27, 2024
Image shows the ChatGPT logo on a navy background below the PC guide logo.
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ChatGPT has reached new heights of popularity in the last few months – and it is no surprise! The online language model can do some pretty mind-boggling stuff, but who owns it? And, who created it? For those who aren’t familiar, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence model that has been available to the public since the end of November 2022. The model is capable of understanding and responding to human feedback in a very sophisticated and speedy manner. You can ask the model to do pretty much anything. It even has the ability to write poetry, summarize long texts, create code and so much more.

Quick answer

ChatGPT is owned by AI research company OpenAI. OpenAI was founded in 2015 and since then has developed and introduced ChatGPT to the public, led by CEO Sam Altman.

Who created ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, and released on November 30th, 2022. OpenAI has since become the world’s most famous AI research and development company. CEO Sam Altman also co-founded the company and has served on the executive board since 2015.

Who created ChatGPT?
OpenAI logo. Photography: Steve Hook, PC Guide

The organization is headquartered in San Francisco and was founded by some prominent players – including Elon Musk, CEO of OpenAI Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Jessica Livingston, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The latter has since created an alternative AI chatbot of his own, Pi (short for Personal Intelligence) under Inflection AI which Hoffman co-founded in 2022.

OpenAI – a short background

OpenAI represents the non-profit OpenAI Incorporated, as well as the for-profit private subsidiary OpenAI LP. At launch, the company was entirely a non-profit venture with the ambitious mission of developing an artificial general intelligence (AGI) that benefits all of humanity. By combining reinforcement learning with the entire internet, we are at the point in history where that is actually possible. Since its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT has become a tiered software service, now offering both ChatGPT Plus and ChatGPT Enterprise in addition to the ever-present free version.

The company’s website makes no mention of which entity has ownership of its natural language processing (NLP) GPT-4 (generative pre-trained transformer) technology. The same is also true of its other large language models. Also at the launch, the company’s board of non-profit OpenAI Inc included:

  • Greg Brockman
  • Ilya Sutskever
  • Sam Altman
  • Adam D’Angelo
  • Tasha McCauley
  • Helen Toner
  • Wojciech Zaremba
  • John Schulman

By contrast, the co-founders and senior executive board of for-profit OpenAI LP comprise:

  • CEO and co-founder of OpenAI, Sam Altman (prev. Y Combinator)
  • President and co-founder Greg Brockman (prev. Stripe)
  • Chief Scientist and co-founder Ilya Sutskever (prev. Google)
  • Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati (prev. Tesla)
  • Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap (prev. JP Morgan Chase)

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Who is Sam Altman?

Sam Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, the company that owns ChatGPT. He dropped out of his computer science degree at Stanford University, later becoming CEO of ChatGPT before he was fired in late 2023, and reinstated again roughly 4 days later.

ChatGPT’s rival chatbot, Grok AI, is owned by Elon Musk. The rivalry between these two chatbots also appears to be apparent between their owners, with Elon Musk and Sam Altman previously being colleagues. He was on the executive board of OpenAI in 2015, later resigning before ChatGPT was released in November 2022, to avoid conflicting AI developments within Tesla.

Who wrote ChatGPT?

OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever wrote ChatGPT. This is a reductive answer, but while there are many engineers involved with the task of ML development, Sutskever is the most senior member of OpenAI with a hands-on role in the software engineering of Chat GPT. No one person designed Chat GPT, instead it was a a collective effort of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, his co-founder Ilya, and the OpenAI board. It’s not clear who wrote the first line of code, or the first line that is still present.

The first GPT model, GPT-1, was introduced in February 2018. This was followed by GPT-2 in February 2019, then by GPT-3 in June 2020, and most recently by GPT-4 in March 2023.

✓ Steve says

Why was ChatGPT created?

AI is one of the great scientific frontiers. With the power to alter the course of human history, artificial intelligence is an exciting field ripe for discovery. AI uniquely touches every other field, accelerating progress across most professions of today, and countless not yet invented. It is almost axiomatically the most powerful productivity tool ever invented.

Being at the forefront of that is, to put it lightly, attractive to entrepreneurs and investors alike. If OpenAI didn’t create ChatGPT, someone else would have. Comparatively, if Sam Altman didn’t create OpenAI, someone else would have.

Who owns OpenAI?

OpenAI is an AI research and deployment company. The AI research firm was initially a non-profit launched in December 2015. Since then, it has transitioned to a “capped-profit” organization as of 2019. Major tech leaders Elon Musk and Sam Altman founded the firm, alongside other prominent Silicon Valley figures. Knowing who created OpenAI is the best way of knowing who created ChatGPT.

OpenAI LP is overseen by OpenAI’s board which consists of Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, and Sam Altman alongside other non-employee members.

Is OpenAI owned by Microsoft?

No, OpenAI is not a Microsoft-owned company or subsidiary. Instead, back in 2019, OpenAI joined forces with tech giant Microsoft making them a key strategic investor. Microsoft supported OpenAI’s efforts by providing a one billion dollar funding boost in exchange for an exclusive license to the AI firm’s technology.

In 2023, Microsoft increased its investment in OpenAI to a cumulative total of $13 billion. Bear in mind that this investment is over several installments, and OpenAI had a different market cap at each point. It’s safe to say that the $13 billion that went in now represents shares worth much more than that. This partnership is likely to pose a large threat to Google’s AI firm, DeepMind. As a result, there is already talk that Google will release its version of an AI chatbot, Chinchilla AI, which is likely to be a direct rival to ChatGPT.

Why did Elon Musk leave OpenAI?

Elon Musk is one of the founding members of OpenAI. Despite still being listed as a sponsor of the company, Musk departed from the Board of Directors in 2018. This left CEO Sam Altman, who created ChatGPT, at the helm. Unsurprisingly, Musk took to Twitter to explain why he left the AI company. He says in a tweet: “I had to focus on solving a painfully large number of engineering & manufacturing problems at Tesla (especially) & SpaceX.”

He also claims there were conflicting developments occurring at Tesla which made his role in the company difficult. Moreover, he quite simply states that he “didn’t agree with some of what (the) OpenAI team wanted to do”. There are a lot of reasons there. But, most of them stem from his commitment to Tesla and perhaps a different vision for the future of OpenAI.

Final Thoughts

ChatGPT has become wildly popular with users across the globe. The tech firm, OpenAI, has done an outstanding job of delivering AI technology to the public. Now we know who created ChatGPT, what is next for the company?

Rumor has it that the organization is seeking to expand into robotics and has already formed partnerships with major players in the tech industry. Equally, it appears that OpenAI plans to utilize its capabilities for these companies, making its technology widespread.

Funmi joined PC Guide in November 2022, and was a driving force for the site's ChatGPT coverage. She has a wide knowledge of AI apps, gaming and consumer technology.