Sam Altman to Steve Jobs: When founders were fired from their own company

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by Tanushree Jaiswal Last Updated: Nov 21, 2023 - 03:16 pm 203 Views
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When Sam Altman and Greg Brockman started OpenAI, they probably didn't imagine it would end up replacing them. But it did. 

Last Friday, the founders of Open AI were shown the door.

Sam Altman, 38, achieved a lot in a short time. While tech giants like Google were working for years on artificial intelligence, OpenAI leaped ahead, unveiling ChatGPT last November. This chatbot did things never seen before, writing more like a human. It quickly gained 100 million users, helped OpenAI raise billions, sent Google reeling, and put AI at the tech industry's center. Altman became an overnight celeb, embracing the role of an AI visionary.

The guy who built an $80 billion company got fired in a ten-minute Google Meet call. 

The reason? The board said he wasn't always open with them, making it hard for them to do their job. So, they lost confidence in his leadership.

Citing the reason, the company said 'deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.' As a result, 'the board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.'"

It's a big drama at OpenAI, with more to uncover. Reports say Altman might join Microsoft to lead an AI team.

This is wild, but it's not the first time a founder got booted. 

Steve Jobs - Apple

Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and CEO, got sacked from the company he built.

Jobs was just 21 when he started Apple. Nine years later, a power struggle led to his public ousting after hiring John Sculley from Pepsi.

Despite revolutionizing personal computing, Jobs got kicked out because of his confrontational style and tough demands on his team. Losing Apple was devastating for him, as he mentioned in a Stanford speech.

William Simon, co-author of “iCon: Steve Jobs, the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business," emphasized Jobs’ demanding nature toward his team. According to Simon, Jobs "demanded so much from the people who worked for him." He noted, "He was great, but drove people too hard," as quoted by Business Today.

During his Stanford University graduating speech, Jobs recalled the incident, stating, "I was out, and very publicly out." He added, "What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating."

In 1997, Jobs resumed his role as CEO at Apple. His second tenure marked a transformative phase, leading Apple to unparalleled success in corporate history. However, in 2011, Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple Inc., passing the reins to his right-hand man Tim Cook. He mentioned he could no longer fulfill his duties, raising concerns about his deteriorating health due to a battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, a fight he courageously endured and survived.

Jack Dorsey - Twitter

Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, played a pivotal role in launching the social media giant in 2006 alongside Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass. Yet, during his tenure as Twitter CEO, Dorsey encountered significant challenges. In 2008, he was ousted from the CEO position due to various issues. Concerns arose about his management style—he often claimed credit for achievements, struggled with criticism, and seemed to prioritize personal interests like sewing, painting lessons, and frequent partying over the company's affairs. These tendencies didn't sit well with colleagues and investors, aggravated further by communication lapses and exorbitant text message costs, which angered the board. Moreover, the neglect of the Twitter database raised serious doubts about the company's stability.

Consequently, Dorsey was removed from his CEO role. However, he later attempted to regain control of Twitter, eventually returning to the company in a different capacity.

He resumed involvement with the company in 2015 but departed in 2021 to focus more on his other venture, the financial technology firm Square (SQ.N), facing heightened competition. 

Sachin and Binny Bansal - Flipkart 

Following Walmart's acquisition of a 77% stake in Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce pioneer, for a staggering $16 billion in May 2018, the company's founders, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, made significant decisions.

Sachin Bansal opted to sell off all his shares in the company, reaping an estimated $800 million from the deal. On the other hand, Binny Bansal chose to retain his shares, securing a board position. However, his influence over the company's operational decisions—the very enterprise that the Bansal duo commenced in 2007 as an online bookseller from a Bengaluru apartment's living room—will be notably limited.

In the business world, they teach you that a person and their business aren't the same thing. Your business today could be someone else's tomorrow. These situations remind us that even though the tech industry creates amazing ideas, it still deals with issues like people fighting for control, conflicts of interest, and the challenges of being in charge.

In tech, where creating new things is crucial, stories about people and their connections often make the most captivating tales. When Altman and Brockman left OpenAI, it added another chapter to the ongoing story of visionary leaders and the complex things happening in the tech world.


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About the Author

Tanushree is a seasoned professional with 6 years of experience in the Fintech and Edtech industry.


Investment/Trading in securities Market is subject to market risk, past performance is not a guarantee of future performance. The risk of loss in trading and investment in Securities markets including Equites and Derivatives can be substantial.
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