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What is OpenAI? Here's what you need to know about the company behind ChatGPT

OpenAI is responsible for more than just chatbots.

Published onMay 6, 2024

Artificial intelligence has become massively popular over the past few years, with AI chatbots and image-generation software popping up everywhere. Perhaps the most popular AI chatbot of all has been ChatGPT. OpenAI, the company behind it, has had a lengthier history than most realize. But what is OpenAI?

In this short guide covering the basics, I’ll explain the organization, its founders, ownership, main products, frequently asked questions, and dispel some common misconceptions.

What is OpenAI?

OpenAI is an artificial intelligence research lab and company that has made significant contributions to the field of AI, most notably creating the AI chatbot ChatGPT.

Short for Open Artificial Intelligence, OpenAI is an organization that focuses on advancing artificial intelligence research and development. It was founded to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI), which refers to highly autonomous systems that outperform humans in most economically valuable work, benefits all of humanity.

Who founded OpenAI?

OpenAI was established in December 2015 by prominent tech and AI industry individuals. Notable co-founders included Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, John Schulman, and Wojciech Zaremba. The organization’s mission was to create AI technologies that would have a broad positive impact on society and to make these technologies accessible to everyone.

Who owns OpenAI?

OpenAI operates as a research and development organization, and its primary fiduciary duty is to humanity as a whole. OpenAI is funded by a group of philanthropic organizations, including but not limited to the Open Philanthropy Project, as well as donations from individuals. It doesn’t have traditional shareholders, and it does not operate for profit. As such, it is not owned by any single individual or corporation.

OpenAI products

ChatGPT Android app play store
Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority

OpenAI has developed several cutting-edge AI products, some of which include:

GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) models

ChatGPT, one of OpenAI’s most famous foundational models, was initially based on GPT-3, a language model launched in 2020 capable of understanding and generating human-like text. Two years later, the organization launched GPT-3.5, which now forms the basis of the free ChatGPT experience.

OpenAI’s GPT models are among the company’s most actively developed products, and it has since seen several iterations. GPT-4 debuted in March 2023, and GPT-4 Turbo followed in November 2023. Each model is more capable than the last, and GPT-5 is expected to debut in mid-2024.


DALL·E is an AI model that generates images from textual descriptions, opening new creative possibilities in art and design. DALL-E 3 debuted in August 2023, with the newest version of the AI image generator built directly into Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.


CLIP is a model that understands images and text together, enabling a wide range of applications, from visual search to natural language understanding.

Other Products

OpenAI has other products and research projects, including Whisper (an automatic speech recognition system) and Codex (a language model for code generation). These products have applications in various industries, from healthcare to software development.

Two of its latest efforts include a human voice recreation tool dubbed Voice Engine and a text-to-video creation tool called Sora.


No, OpenAI is not a publicly traded company. It is an independent research organization with a mission to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. It operates as a non-profit entity.

No, OpenAI is not open to public investment. However, because of the company’s hybrid structure, it is composed of nonprofit and profit-orientated companies, so it is possible to invest in stocks and ETFs associated with OpenAI.

No, Microsoft does not own OpenAI. While OpenAI has partnered with Microsoft to develop and deliver AI technologies, they remain separate entities with their own missions and operations.

OpenAI releases some of its research and code as open source to promote transparency and collaboration within the AI community. However, not all of its technology is open source, and there may be restrictions on the use of some of their models and data.

Elon Musk was one of the co-founders of OpenAI and played a significant role in its early development. However, Musk left the company in 2018 due to a potential conflict of interest with his ownership of Tesla, the electric vehicle company. As a result, he is no longer directly involved with the organization’s operations. OpenAI operates independently with its own governance structure and funding sources.

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