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$100M or $50M – Musk’s Donation in OpenAI Appears to be Foggy

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$100M or $50M - Musk’s Donation in OpenAI Appears to be Foggy

Elon Musk’s contribution to OpenAI, the non-profit artificial intelligence research organization he helped launch, has been under scrutiny following a recent CNBC interview.

Musk stepped down from the OpenAI board in 2018.

Recently, he expressed his uncertainty about the exact amount he donated, suggesting it to be around $50 million.

This is a significant departure from his earlier claims of a $100 million donation.

The True Picture

AI researchers Greg Brockman and Ilya Sutskever established OpenAI with the objective of benefiting humanity by advancing digital intelligence. Moreover, they wanted to make the process free from financial return pressures.

Initially, OpenAI was co-chaired by Sam Altman and Musk. Besides, giant organizations like Amazon also committed to donating. In the tech world, the organization started to be identified as a billion-dollar effort.

However, the difference between a commitment and an actual donation is stark. As of 2021, the total amount donated to OpenAI, as per federal tax filings, was only $133.2 million. It’s far short of the billion-dollar commitment made at its inception.

Furthermore, OpenAI received the majority of these funds before its transition to a for-profit entity in 2019.

Currently, the non-profit wing of OpenAI is almost inactive, having received just over $3,000 in 2021. Sources suggest that Musk’s claim of donating $100 million doesn’t align with the IRS and state regulatory filings.

Other minor donations include the gift of Tesla vehicles to OpenAI employees.

The documents reveal that the contributions directly traceable to Musk add up to approximately $15 million. These include a $10 million donation to, which then donated the same amount to OpenAI.

It was followed by an additional contribution of around $5 million from Musk to

Is It Anonymous?

The documents, however, don’t rule out the possibility of anonymous donations. Rich individuals often channel their donations through Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) to maintain anonymity.

Musk’s Foundation made significant donations to such a fund.  It, in turn, put in approximately $8m in OpenAI over a period of two years. Now, if any of this was Musk’s contribution remains foggy due to the many donors and substantial assets the fund holds.

While Musk’s total contribution remains unclear, other donors’ contributions have been tracked.

Notably, Sam Altman, now OpenAI’s CEO, loaned the organization $3.75 million to start, which he later forgave as a gift. Reid Hoffman, through his foundation Aphorism, donated $6 million over two years.

By 2019, OpenAI transitioned to a for-profit entity and took on a $1 billion investment from Microsoft.

Musk’s criticism of OpenAI’s for-profit transition is notable. His departure from OpenAI’s board coincided with a period of escalating costs for the organization, with its computing bill rising significantly.

Despite the discrepancies and controversies, OpenAI continues to be one of the most valuable and well-known tech ventures today.

Still, as Musk stated in his interview, the transition of a non-profit, open-source organization into a for-profit, closed-source entity is indeed perplexing.

If this is legal, why doesn’t everyone do it?Elon Musk

From the analysis, it appears that Musk’s contribution to OpenAI could be approximately $57.4 million, considering all non-Musk contributions. However, this figure assumes zero donations from several founding and new donors, as well as multiple corporate supporters.

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$100M or $50M – Musk’s Donation in OpenAI Appears to be Foggy Reviewed by RP on May 18, 2023 Rating: 5

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