OpenAI trying to poach Google workers with $10M pay packages

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FILE: Google campus in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. 

FILE: Google campus in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. 

Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Information reported Friday that OpenAI recruiters are trying to poach senior researchers from Google’s AI teams, telling the workers that their annual pay, “mostly in the form of stock,” could range from $5 million to $10 million. OpenAI has previously hired key Google AI researchers, sometimes using a personal plea to the employee from CEO Sam Altman, the Information reported.

The big-money recruitment promises come as OpenAI, per the Wall Street Journal, plans to sell existing employees’ shares, valuing the company at $80 billion to $90 billion valuation. Friday’s The Information report points out that if workers join OpenAI before the sales go through, they’d likely get stock right before the valuation approximately triples. That means workers could get OpenAI shares and see them quickly jump 300% in value, plus get large stock grants later on. OpenAI last sold employee stock, TechCrunch reported in April, at a valuation of $27 billion to $29 billion.

The company is primarily making its money through $20-a-month subscriptions to ChatGPT Plus, as well as by selling use of its AI models to developers and businesses. Microsoft paid billions to own about half of OpenAI, and in return provides the San Francisco company with the massive cloud computing power needed to train and test its models. Google has its own cloud computing business to help its AI research efforts, and much of the foundational research for the current AI boom came from Google. 

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Companies’ obscene spending on AI workers’ salaries bucks prevailing trends in the larger tech industry, in which 2023 has been a year of layoffs by companies aiming to cut costs and push themselves toward profitability. Another San Francisco AI startup, Anthropic, recently announced billions in new investments from Amazon and Google, each of which laid off thousands of workers within the last year. In June, amid the writers’ strike, Netflix listed an AI job that would pay up to $900,000.

OpenAI is riding interest in AI technology to a perch among the industry’s giants. At the end of October, the company leased 486,600 square feet of office space from Uber in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. That said, the Information report did note that some employees have jumped in the other direction, from OpenAI to Google, so perhaps it’s a bit too soon to predict a takeover in Mountain View.

Hear of anything happening at OpenAI, Google or another tech company? Contact tech reporter Stephen Council securely at [email protected] or on Signal at 628-204-5452.

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