Semaglutide and AI are two of the most hyped money-makers in the world right now — but when it comes to which is more valuable, pharma is still absolutely crushing tech.
As CNBC reported, Novo Nordisk is now valued at roughly $506 billion following a stunning year in sales of its semaglutide-based injectable drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, as outlined in its quarterly earnings report for the end of 2023.
News of that jaw-dropping and ever-increasing figure — which in September brought the company's worth to more than the gross domestic product of its home country — just so happens to be five times the $100 billion estimated worth of OpenAI pending a new round of fundraising,
In December, reports indicated that the makers of ChatGPT may soon reach the $100 billion valuation mark with the help of a fresh crop of investments. To put that figure into perspective, last year's reportage of Microsoft's $10 billion investment into OpenAI — right before laying off tens of thousands of workers — was huge news. Today, it's chump change.
To be fair, pinning down OpenAI's value is trickier than Novo's because it's not publicly traded and therefore doesn't have to report its earnings to the world. Nevertheless, this math offers an interesting look not only at where the massively hyped AI industry currently stands, but also on stock hype in general.
Take, for instance, each company's trajectory over the past 18 months. Those in the know were most certainly aware of Novo Nordisk and OpenAI and their respective offerings, but 2023 brought each incredible new heights of fame and wealth as their products skyrocketed into the public consciousness and became more popular than would have seemed conceivable just a year prior.
With all that in mind, though, investors are still taking a risk on each.
Novo's biggest-sellers, Ozempic and Wegovy, carry some gnarly health risks, and it's unclear whether benefits of the drugs will continue after users stop injecting themselves with it. Scientists don't know why semaglutide works for weight loss, and one of its inventors has cautioned that those who take it straight up stop enjoying food, in a grim echo of the old heroin chic adage that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."
ChatGPT, meanwhile, is a whole other bizarre beast, turning OpenAI's embattled CEO Sam Altman into a Dr. Strangelovian figure who comes across as equal parts terrified and horny for the future human-level — or, perhaps, human-replacing — AI he insists that he's birthing into the world. Meanwhile, the actual tech as it stands today is not all that great at its job, as it turns out.
Though both products have major issues and could easily lead to crashes and burnings not just for their respective companies but for their industries at large, Novo and OpenAI are, on different scales, valued at outrageous levels not because of the things they're selling, but for what those things symbolize — extrahuman abilities to control our bodies and the technology we interface with, which in the world of finance translates into hundreds of billions of dollars.