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Salesforce CEO makes 'can't-miss' offer to OpenAI workers

Last year’s hyper-successful launch of OpenAI’s ChapGPT ignited the artificial intelligence revolution. A generative AI app, ChatGPT hinted at AI’s potential by quickly searching, parsing, and creating content on just about anything. 

While OpenAI quickly established itself as an AI leader, its dominance in the emerging AI marketplace is now in peril because of a boardroom shakeup. 

CEO Sam Altman, who has clashed with co-founder and former OpenAI board member Elon Musk in the past, was surprisingly removed by OpenAI’s board of directors on November 17, causing a backlash among the company’s workers that may lead to hundreds of employees following Altman to the exit.

The ouster of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has employees threatening to resign to work for other technology companies, such as Microsoft and Salesforce.com

Getty/TheStreet

OpenAI workers declare an AI rebellion

Former Stripe Chief Technology Officer and OpenAI co-founder and board member Greg Brockman has already quit in solidarity with Altman, and over 700 OpenAI employees have signed a letter demanding OpenAI’s board resign.

Growing discontent among OpenAI’s technology workforce is causing companies struggling to hire qualified AI workers to pounce.

Related: OpenAI descends into chaos as nearly 500 staff threaten to leave unless board resigns

Microsoft  (MSFT) – Get Free Report, an investor in OpenAI that uses ChatGPT in its Bing search engine, quickly inked a contract with Altman to run new AI projects. It also snapped up Brockman over the weekend.

Salesforce’s  (CRM) – Get Free Report CEO Marc Benioff similarly thinks OpenAI’s loss could be his gain. 

On the social media site “X,” formerly Twitter, Benioff made an intriguing offer to disgruntled OpenAI workers that may be tough to ignore.

Benioff, who made billions shepherding Salesforce into one of the globe’s largest business software companies, is offering to match the salary of any OpenAI researcher who leaves. 

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Not only will Benioff guarantee AI workers’ salaries, but it appears he’s also willing to make them whole on any OpenAI options they may forgo if they quit. Benioff says that those who join its Salesforce Einstein AI project “full cash & equity OTE.” 

On-target earnings (OTE) usually only reflect play plus potential commissions, but not equity.

OpenAI researchers can receive a base salary of $300,000, plus grants of profit participation units, a form of equity compensation that can be worth millions for some workers.

Since OpenAI’s valuation has soared following ChatGPT’s launch, unrealized gains on PPUs could be a significant factor anchoring employees to OpenAI despite their anger regarding the decision to fire Altman.

OpenAI was reportedly seeking a valuation of $86 billion recently, up dramatically from $29 billion in April 2023.

As of this afternoon, over 700 of OpenAI’s workers have signed a fiery letter to the board calling on them to step down so that more technology-experienced members can replace them.

The letter is scathing rebuke of OpenAI’s board of directors. In part, it reads:

“Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement, and care for our mission and employees. We, the the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altmanand Greg Brokcman…We will take this step imminitely, unless all current board members resign.”

The letter also asks for the reinstatement of Sam Altman and Brockman, something that appears unlikely given their new roles at Microsoft. Additionally, employees called upon the Board of Directors to appoint two new lead independent directors. One of the employees’ suggestions is Bret Taylor, former Salesforce co-CEO and Twitter Chairman of the Board before Musk’s acquisition of it in 2022.

In addition to pitching Salesforce to OpenAI workers as an alternative to Microsoft, Benioff separately posted the same offer to match pay and equity OTE “If your immigration is now impacted by Open AI on O1, H1B, or other visa.” 

He also said the offer applies to those who would prefer to work for Slack or Tableau, companies acquired by Salesforce in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

Salesforce Einstein Trusted AI is a solution companies across industries can use to assist with meeting prep, landing pages, product catalogs, code, and other tasks.

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