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Who created ChatGPT and who owns it today?

ChatGPT's creator is OpenAI, a startup you've probably never heard about.
By

Published onSeptember 1, 2023

ChatGPT stock photo 8

Out of seemingly nowhere in late 2022, ChatGPT surprised all of us with its human-like dialog and language capabilities. From day one, the chatbot could do everything from generating movie scripts to writing computer code. Several months later, we now know that decades’ worth of research and development went into making ChatGPT. Despite that, however, most people hadn’t heard of its creator OpenAI until the chatbot’s release. So in this article, here’s everything you need to know about who created ChatGPT and which company controls it today.

Who created ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was created by a San Francisco-based startup called OpenAI. For nearly a decade, the company has been working on the GPT family of large language models. The latest model, dubbed GPT-4, released only a few months after ChatGPT’s debut.

When OpenAI was founded in late 2015, it received $1 billion in funding from various investors. At the time, it was designed to operate as a non-profit AI research firm. By 2019, however, the company transitioned to a for-profit model. This allowed OpenAI to accept investments from venture capitalist firms and offer larger employee incentives.

OpenAI was founded as a non-profit, but it's now aiming to become profitable.

OpenAI’s move to privatization caused a stir internally, as it meant deviating from one of the organization’s founding principles. It also alienated some of OpenAI’s early contributors like Elon Musk. More on that in a later section.

From the very beginning, OpenAI managed to attract some of the best AI talent in the industry. Some of them even left or turned down higher-paying jobs at tech giants. The opportunity to collaborate with other top minds was reportedly a key motivating factor for early employees.

Moreover, OpenAI’s non-profit approach to AI seemed appealing compared to the alternative. At publicly traded companies like Google, engineers and researchers often have to prioritize profitable projects over ones they’re passionate about.

Who owns ChatGPT?

ces 2023 microsoft logo

ChatGPT is wholly owned by OpenAI LP (Limited Partnership), the for-profit subsidiary of OpenAI Incorporated. That might not mean much, but all you need to know is that it is not fully controlled by an established company like Google or Facebook/Meta.

Despite OpenAI’s transition to a for-profit business model, it remains a small company to this day. However, it has since attracted sizable investments that likely enabled the development of GPT-3 in 2020 and the DALL-E AI image generator in 2021. GPT-3 would eventually pave the way for ChatGPT, which uses a slightly fine-tuned version called GPT-3.5.

Microsoft has invested over ten billion dollars in ChatGPT creator OpenAI.

Microsoft has a significant stake in OpenAI, thanks to its $10 billion investment in 2023. It was also among the first to invest a $1 billion sum in 2019. No company besides Microsoft has announced a significant investment in OpenAI.

Instead, we’ve seen tech giants accelerate their own AI efforts internally. Google, for instance, announced its Bard chatbot just a few months after ChatGPT. Likewise, Facebook/Meta and Amazon have made similar announcements in the generative AI arena.

Does Microsoft own ChatGPT?

Bing Chat GPT4 app stock image

No, Microsoft does not own ChatGPT or its parent company, OpenAI. However, the former’s investments have enabled a special relationship between the two. Most notably, OpenAI now exclusively uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. This is notable because language models require copious amounts of computing resources to train and run, which would otherwise be inaccessible to most companies.

OpenAI and Microsoft work closely, but remain independent.

Some estimates suggest that each ChatGPT response costs at least a few cents. This can add up over time, especially given the chatbot’s popularity and large user base. Only a small portion of users end up paying OpenAI since the chatbot remains free to this day.

In exchange for potentially subsidized computing power, OpenAI gives Microsoft access to its technology. For example, Microsoft’s Bing Chat performs better than ChatGPT because it uses the latest GPT-4 language model under the hood.

Who owns OpenAI? Did Elon Musk help create ChatGPT?

Elon Musk against a background showcasing the Tesla logo

Elon Musk was one of the founding board members of OpenAI, the company that went on to create ChatGPT. He was joined by a flurry of other big names in tech, including billionaire Peter Thiel and startup accelerator Y Combinator. They jointly contributed $1 billion to kickstart OpenAI’s mission of democratizing AI for the masses.

So why did Elon Musk donate to OpenAI and help create the company that would go on to build ChatGPT? He believed that a non-profit organization could oppose the hegemony of tech giants. In fact, Musk claims that he personally proposed the name OpenAI to signal the company’s open-source mission and heritage. However, his involvement dwindled over the years and he completely stepped down from the board in 2018.

Since ChatGPT’s release in 2022, Musk has criticized the chatbot and its creator. More recently, the Tesla CEO has alleged that Microsoft has taken proxy control of OpenAI through its sizable investments over the years. In other words, the OpenAI that Musk envisioned all those years ago simply doesn’t exist anymore.

According to Musk, OpenAI has trained its chatbot to withhold information from the public. The solution? A “maximum truth-seeking AI that tries to find the nature of the universe.” In an interview with Fox News, Musk floated the idea of his own chatbot dubbed TruthGPT. He also warned that companies like Google and Microsoft are overlooking the dangers of AI. Finally, Musk warns that rogue AI could have “the potential of civilizational destruction.”


FAQs

Yes, OpenAI was jointly founded by a number of high-profile tech investors including Elon Musk. However, he stepped down from the board several years before ChatGPT’s release.

Elon Musk stepped down from OpenAI’s board because he disagreed with the company’s new “maximum profit” business model.

At this time, it’s unclear who owns the content generated by AI tools like ChatGPT. It’s best to assume that you don’t have the full rights to such content.