OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is looking to raise some serious cash.
The executive is currently trying to woo investors, including the United Arab Emirates government, the Wall Street Journal reports, to raise up to $7 trillion for an AI hardware venture.
To put that number into perspective, all of global chip sales barely cracked half a trillion dollars last year, per the report. And AI-specific chip sales were estimated to account for roughly $100 billion of that.
His goal is reportedly to set up a new chip manufacturing venture in order to boost hardware capacity and of course train AI, among other things. It's not exactly surprising, considering OpenAI has struggled to get its hands on enough hardware to train its massive large language models, which power products like ChatGPT.
Training AIs doesn't just require huge amounts of electricity. The process is also incredibly hardware-intensive, leading to companies like OpenAI, Google, and Meta, toppling over each other to secure specialized chips. And supplies are running low, while prices — and revenues for AI chip makers — are spiking.
Altman himself has complained of a "brutal" chip shortage in the past. Late last year, in the weeks leading up to when he was fired — and mystifyingly rehired less than a week later — Bloomberg reported that he was "fundraising in the Middle East" for a "new chip venture."
Such a venture would be directly competing with Nvidia, which has been dominating the AI-focused chip market.
Now, new details have emerged, with the WSJ's sources claiming that Altman has met with several players, including the UAE's Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al Nahyan, a top security official and the brother of the president.
Per the report, Altman also told representatives of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Taiwan's biggest chip maker, that he wants to build dozens of chip-fabrication factories in a matter of years.
Interestingly, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang met with his counterpart at TSMC late last month as well, showing that OpenAI is far from the only player trying to secure semiconductor supremacy these days.
Meanwhile, Altman has kept his cards open on the table, reportedly informing Satya Nadella, CEO of OpenAI's largest investor Microsoft, of his fundraising efforts.
While Altman is hoping to build chip plants in the US, economic headwinds and a shortage of skilled labor could hinder those efforts.
That's not to mention US politicians, who are growing wary of foreign governments like the UAE getting too much power over the AI market.
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