Sam Altman was reinstated soon after being fired as OpenAI CEO last month, but still stood to gain had the company continued to develop ChatGPT without him. During Altman’s tenure as CEO, OpenAI signed a letter of intent to spend $51 million on AI chips from a startup called Rain AI into which he has also invested personally. Rain is based less than a mile from OpenAI’s headquarters in San Francisco and is working on a chip it calls a neuromorphic processing unit, or NPU, designed to replicate features of the human brain. OpenAI in 2019 signed a nonbinding agreement to spend $51 million on the chips when they became available, according to a copy of the deal and Rain disclosures to investors this year seen by WIRED. Rain told investors Altman had personally invested more than $1 million into the company. The letter of intent has not been previously reported. The investor documents said that Rain could get its first hardware to customers as early as October next year. OpenAI and Rain declined to comment. OpenAI’s letter of intent with Rain shows how Altman’s web of personal investments can entangle with his duties as OpenAI CEO. His prior position leading startup incubator Y Combinator helped Altman become one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent dealmakers, investing in dozens of startups and acting as a broker between entrepreneurs and the world’s biggest companies. But the distraction and intermingling of his myriad pursuits played some role in his recent firing by OpenAI’s board for uncandid communications, according to people involved in the situation but not authorized to discuss it.
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