Elon Musk has made it quite clear over the past few months: He’s no fan of OpenAI, the creator of the popular ChatGPT AI chatbot.
Musk’s critiques of one of the biggest companies in the growing AI space is especially poignant being that Musk himself was a founder in the company. Musk has said(opens in a new tab) on numerous occasions(opens in a new tab) that he put $100 million into OpenAI in its earliest days, back when he agreed with its non-profit, open-source ethos.
OpenAI’s new less-transparent, more for-profit direction has been a major issue for Musk, who has since cut ties with the company.These are legitimate critiques, made even more substantial due to the fact that a former co-founder and investor in the company is making them.
But a new report(opens in a new tab) from TechCrunch calls into question just how much Musk actually gave to OpenAI. And it appears Musk has revised the amount he claims to have provided the AI company as a result.
According to this report(opens in a new tab) by Mark Harris of TechCrunch, tax filings show that OpenAI’s non-profit received no more than $133.2 million since its inception through 2021. Based on all non-Musk investment into OpenAI, Musk could not have given more than around $57 million to the organization.
However, as for publicly recorded donations tied to Musk, that number is even lower. In 2016, through his 501(c)3 non-profit, the Musk Foundation, a $10 million donation was made to a non-profit connected to OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, which in turn donated the $10 million to OpenAI.
According to TechCrunch, that is the only “publicly disclosed cash contribution” that backs up Musk’s financial ties to OpenAI. However, TechCrunch believes that Musk provided an additional $5 million in cash in 2017, as part of a larger donation to OpenAI from that same Altman-connected nonprofit.
The report also found non-cash contributions in the form of nearly $250k worth of Tesla vehicles, gifted to OpenAI in 2017. In 2018, Musk provided an additional $14k in vehicle upgrades.
As TechCrunch points out(opens in a new tab), there are ways for rich donors to give money anonymously, so it’s possible Musk provided more than $15 million cash and some Tesla vehicles. However, based on the amount given by other donors, Musk’s previous $100 million figure can’t be true.
And Musk seems to have come to that conclusion as well. After TechCrunch reached out for comment regarding their findings, Musk revised his claims. In a CNBC interview(opens in a new tab) earlier this week, Musk was asked about how much he donated to OpenAI. He didn’t drop the $100 million number as he previously did.
“I’m not sure the exact number but it’s some number on the order of $50 million,” he said.
In the big picture, tens of millions of dollars may seem inconsequential when we’re talking about billionaires and multi-billion dollar valued companies. Musk has made many valid critiques about OpenAI and this report on how much he actually gave the organization doesn’t really affect his points. But, if one is going to put themselves out there as a uniquely qualified critic of OpenAI, it seems very important that they get these basic facts and figures right.