Elon Musk used to say he put $100M in OpenAI, however now it is $50M: Listed below are the receipts


It’s no secret that Elon Musk has been deeply annoyed with OpenAI since stepping down from its board in February 2018, culminating in an open letter calling for the group to pause work on extra highly effective programs.

“It does appear bizarre that one thing generally is a nonprofit, open supply, and someway remodel itself right into a for revenue, closed supply,” Musk said in a CNBC interview Wednesday, following a Tesla shareholder’s assembly. “This is able to be like, let’s say you funded a corporation to avoid wasting the Amazon rainforest, and as a substitute they grew to become a lumber firm, and chopped down the forest and bought it for cash.”

The facility of his criticism hinges on the truth that Musk helped to launch the AI analysis group. However precisely how a lot assist he gave, even Musk appears uncertain about.

“I’m nonetheless confused as to how a non-profit to which I donated ~$100M someway grew to become a $30B market cap for-profit. If that is authorized, why doesn’t everybody do it?” he tweeted in mid-March. Per week later he complained on Twitter once more: “I donated the primary $100M to OpenAI when it was a non-profit, however haven’t any possession or management.”

The $100 million determine has been broadly reported as reality. However in the identical CNBC interview yesterday, Musk abruptly shrank his declare. When requested how a lot he had donated to OpenAI, he replied: “I’m unsure the precise quantity nevertheless it’s some quantity on the order of $50 million.”

So what modified within the final eight weeks?

Following his unique tweets in March, Information World started an investigation into the funding behind the unique OpenAI non-profit, together with Musk’s contributions. Our evaluation of paperwork filed with the IRS and a state regulator present that Musk couldn’t have given the non-profit the $100 million he initially claimed.

The truth is, whereas the supply of a lot of OpenAI’s funding stays unclear, filings include solely round $15 million of donations that may be traced definitively again to Musk.

Information World didn’t obtain a response from Musk’s lawyer when introduced with our evaluation and requested for particulars of his monetary assist.

The tax filings additionally reveal beforehand unreported particulars about one of the crucial useful and well-known know-how ventures working right this moment, together with the extent of funding by Reid Hoffman, free Teslas for early OpenAI engineers, and the sky-rocketing computing invoice that will have prompted it to take a $1 billion funding from Microsoft.

Nowhere close to a billion-dollar effort

The monetary facet of OpenAI has been murky ever for the reason that group was announced by AI researchers Greg Brockman and Ilya Sutskever in December 2015. They wrote that OpenAI’s objective was to “advance digital intelligence in the best way that’s almost definitely to profit humanity as an entire, unconstrained by a must generate monetary return.” The non-profit can be co-chaired by Musk and Sam Altman.

The weblog claimed that Altman, Musk and Brockman would donate to the brand new 501(c)3, together with Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Amazon, Infosys, Y Combinator associate Jessica Livingston and YC Analysis, one other non-profit spun out of the startup accelerator. “In complete, these funders have dedicated $1 billion,” they wrote. The subsequent yr, Wired duly reported OpenAI as a “billion dollar effort,” and that determine was subsequently broadly shared.

However “dedicated” will not be the identical as “really donated.” Based on federal tax filings, no less than one of many named donors, YC Analysis, by no means gave a single greenback, and the full quantity donated to OpenAI’s non-profit from its inception via 2021 was solely $133.2 million. The overwhelming majority of these funds arrived earlier than the launch of OpenAI’s for-profit arm in 2019, and the non-profit itself is now largely defunct. It obtained simply $3,066 of donations in 2021.

Musk’s share

So how a lot of OpenAI’s $133 million did Musk donate? place to start out is along with his personal 501(c)3 group, the Musk Foundation.

In 2016, the Musk Basis made a $10 million donation to yet one more non-profit related to Altman, referred to as, in flip, made a $10 million donation to OpenAI. The rationale for this roundabout route, explained an OpenAI spokesperson in 2019, was a delay in establishing OpenAI’s tax-exempt standing with the IRS.

That $10 million donation stays the one publicly disclosed money contribution from Musk to OpenAI. Nonetheless, an audited monetary assertion filed by with California charity regulators in 2020 reveals that $15 million of the group’s 2016 income got here from a single contributor. On condition that YC’s income for the entire yr totaled $16.6 million, Musk could be very more likely to have been that contributor. YC subsequently gave OpenAI one other $16 million in 2017, of which no less than $5 million was possible Musk’s.

The one different donation that may be tied to Musk is a beforehand unreported present to OpenAI in 2017 of $248,295 value of Tesla autos, and a subsequent donation in 2018 for $14,105 in automobile upgrades. An audited financial statement notes that the autos had been offered to staff as compensation.

Nonetheless, there are additionally methods to provide cash to a non-profit anonymously. Wealthy people can cloak their presents by funneling cash via so-called donor suggested funds (DAFs). The Musk Basis donated $12.4 million in 2017, and $6.3 million in 2018, to a DAF referred to as Constancy Investments Charitable Present Fund. That fund then donated $7.8 million to OpenAI between 2018 and 2020. There isn’t a method to inform whether or not any of that cash was Musk’s – the Fund has many donors and tens of billions of {dollars} in belongings – however it’s unimaginable to rule out.

Corporations and people can donate to non-profits immediately with out their identities being made public. Musk possible did this with the extra $5 million present to in 2016. Maybe he merely topped up his OpenAI donations to $50 or $100 million the identical means?

A number of weeks in the past, Musk’s consultant was introduced with Information World’s reporting however didn’t reply to requests for remark. The one method to put a restrict on Musk’s contributions was to rely up the presents to OpenAI from different donors and see how a lot was left over.

The opposite founders’ share

Sam Altman, now OpenAI’s CEO, made a contribution, the group’s 2016 IRS filing shows. He loaned the younger group $3.75 million to get it began — after which forgave the total quantity, with curiosity, for a complete present of $3,784,637.

Hoffman used his personal basis, Aphorism, to provide $1 million to YC in 2016, which the group appears to have handed on to OpenAI in 2017. Aphorism then adopted up with a $5 million donation direct to OpenAI in 2017 and 2018.

Amazon and Microsoft donated no less than $800,000 in cloud computing providers, and Infosys confirmed to Information World that it had made a donation. Not one of the corporations would put a greenback quantity on their contributions. There have been different company presents in-kind, together with a $129,000 excessive efficiency laptop from Nvidia, in addition to software program and providers from over a dozen different corporations.

OpenAI wouldn’t share particulars of contributions made by Brockman or Livingston. Likewise, there isn’t any report of Peter Thiel offering any funds to OpenAI, nor did his VC agency reply to a request for info. Nonetheless, there was a modest $100,000 donation in 2018 from Donor’s Belief, a DAF favored by conservatives and libertarians, amongst whom Thiel has been counted.
In 2017, Open Philanthropy introduced a $30 million donation to OpenAI, which was delivered in three $10 million presents in 2017, 2018 and 2019, via a non-profit managed by Fb co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Open Philanthropy’s CEO, Holden Karnofsky, was given a seat on OpenAI’s board.

“We see some dangers, each from unintended penalties of AI use, and from deliberate misuse), and imagine that we — as a philanthropic group, separate from academia, business, and authorities — could also be well-placed to assist work to cut back these dangers,” the group wrote on the time.

The price of computing

As OpenAI scaled, its prices started rising quick. On high of using super-star AI researchers with multi-million greenback salaries, OpenAI’s computing invoice had elevated exponentially and in-kind computing donations had been only a drop within the bucket. Based on its tax filings, OpenAI spent $2.3 million on cloud computing in 2016, $7.9 million in 2017, and $30.6 million in 2018.

In February 2018, OpenAI switched cloud suppliers from Amazon to Google, signing an settlement to spend no less than $63 million with the tech large over the subsequent two years. Musk left OpenAI’s board the identical month. The occasions could also be unconnected, though Semafor reported just lately that Musk thought OpenAI was slipping behind Google, and walked away after the opposite founders rejected his supply to run the nonprofit.

Based on insiders at OpenAI contacted by Semafor, Musk stopped making donations at that time, precipitating the spin-out of a for-profit OpenAI LP that might welcome exterior buyers. By the summer time of 2019, OpenAI had already spent its Google computing cash and was in search of one other deal.

In July, Microsoft invested round $1 billion within the new for-profit entity — with about half the funds within the type of credit for its personal Azure cloud computing service.

Musk has publicly decried OpenAI’s transition to a for-profit enterprise.

Its different large donor, Moskovitz, additionally appears to have soured on the trouble. In a dialog on a philanthropy forum in March, he posted: “My hope is we really slowed acceleration by taking part however I’m fairly skeptical of the view that we added to it.”

Not each founding donor felt the identical. Reid Hoffman’s Aphorism basis invested a beforehand unreported $50 million in OpenAI’s for-profit enterprise in 2018. Aphorism justified the charitable funding by writing that the brand new enterprise aimed to supply AI “know-how to the general public via open supply licensing the place acceptable to profit the general public.”

Not one of the current variations of OpenAI’s Chat-GPT chatbot have been open supply.

With Musk’s departure, OpenAI welcomed six new board members, every of whom additionally grew to become a donor, in response to the group. Neither they nor OpenAI would share how a lot they gave, however the subsequent yr, OpenAI obtained its final main public present: $30 million from a DAF referred to as the Silicon Valley Neighborhood Basis. There isn’t a report of Musk or his basis ever donating to that DAF.

The underside line

Including up all of the non-Musk contributions to OpenAI (together with the Silicon Valley Neighborhood Basis cash) provides a complete of $75.8 million, out of $133.2 million. Which means essentially the most Musk might have donated to OpenAI would possible have been $57.4 million — a far cry from the $100 million he initially claimed, however near the determine he talked about Wednesday.

Nonetheless, this quantity assumes that three founding donors (together with Thiel), six newer donors, and a number of company supporters like Infosys, gave nothing in any respect.

Within the larger scheme of Musk’s funds, a discrepancy of $35 million, $50 million and even $85 million is little greater than a rounding error. With Musk just lately valuing Twitter at just $20 billion, the world’s second richest individual has misplaced properly over $100 million day-after-day since shopping for the corporate final fall.

Correction: Sam Altman was president of Y Combinator, not a co-founder.


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