Meet Emmett Shear: The Interim CEO of OpenAI Replacing Sam Altman

Meet Emmett Shear: The Interim CEO of OpenAI Replacing Sam Altman
Emmett Shear from Twitch during the second day of Web Summit 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal.
(Photo by Eoin Noonan /Web Summit via Getty Images)

On Monday, Emmett Shear, Twitch co-founder, became OpenAI’s interim CEO. This is the third leadership change in a few days for ChatGPT’s parent company after the sudden removal of ex-CEO Sam Altman by the board.

Key Highlights

  • Last week, OpenAI’s board fired CEO Sam Altman, citing doubts about his leadership.
  • Altman, known for boosting AI with ChatGPT, wanted to advance and sell generative AI quickly. But some board members worry about the risks of advanced AI.
  • In response, Emmett Shear, ex-CEO of Twitch, took over as interim CEO on Monday.
  • On Sunday, Microsoft hired Altman and Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s former president, for a new research unit.

Who is Emmett Shear?

Emmett Shear, one of the folks who started Twitch, left in March 2023 because of some problems with the service. Even though he’s a big deal in Silicon Valley, most people don’t know him.

He, along with Justin Kan, Michael Seibel, and Kyle Vogt, started Twitch in 2007. They turned it from showing Justin Kan’s life all the time into something that got super popular worldwide. But while Shear was in charge, some streamers got upset because they thought Twitch wasn’t looking out for them. Twitch also had a tough competition with YouTube for the best talent, and Twitch lost some big names to exclusive deals on YouTube.

After leaving Twitch, Shear joined Y Combinator, a startup helper, where Altman used to be in charge. Before Twitch, Shear helped start Kiko Calendar, a calendar app made during the 2005 Y Combinator program.

During his 16 years at Twitch, Shear made it big by showing people playing video games and doing other stuff live. Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for a ton of money. But there were always problems, like issues with controlling what people put on Twitch, changing how they shared money, and fake videos made by computers.

In 2011, Shear started working part-time at Y Combinator, the same startup helper where Altman worked before.

In his statement on Monday, Shear explained the reason behind taking the OpenAI position.

“I had recently resigned from my role as CEO of Twitch due to the birth of my now 9 month old son,” Shear said in the post early Monday. “Spending time with him has been every bit as rewarding as I thought it would be, and I was happily avoiding full time employment.” “I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence. When the board shared the situation and asked me to take the role, I did not make the decision lightly. Ultimately I felt that I had a duty to help if I could,” he added.

Why his Position Matters?

Shear has once expressed concerns about AI, stating there’s a 5% to 50% chance it could be a significant threat to humanity.

He thinks many CEO jobs can be done by machines. As OpenAI’s new CEO, Shear might need to deal with rules on AI to handle problems like job loss and tech misuse.

Shear’s swift appointment as OpenAI’s CEO puts him in charge of a crucial player in the AI landscape, known for the popular ChatGPT.

Despite OpenAI’s internal turmoil, Shear, now leading a key AI company, advocates for a cautious approach to ensure AI safety.

The company’s internal struggles have raised concerns among other businesses relying on OpenAI’s services. Over 500 of its 700-plus employees signed a letter urging the board to resign following Altman’s unexpected removal.

OpenAI’s core technology, the large language model (LLM), powers ChatGPT, capable of processing and generating human language through extensive data training.

As OpenAI’s head, Shear is likely to encounter regulatory scrutiny due to the potential risks of AI, such as misinformation and job displacement. A recent U.K. summit emphasized the existential risks of AI, with world leaders discussing pressing issues in the field.