Sam Altman thinks Silicon Valley has lost its culture of innovation

  • OpenAI’s Sam Altman thinks Silicon Valley no longer has a culture of innovation.
  • “Prior to OpenAI, what was the last really big scientific breakthrough to come out of a Silicon Valley company?” he said on a podcast Wednesday.
  • He thinks that Silicon Valley’s rush for quick returns has led to a focus on groundbreaking research.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman took another dig at Silicon Valley, saying the tech mecca no longer has a culture of innovation.

“There was a lot of research among companies in Silicon Valley, Xerox PARC is a clear example of that. It hasn’t been like that for a long time,” Altman said in a podcast interview Wednesday with Norwegian sovereign wealth fund chief executive Nikolai Tengen. Norges Bank Investments.

“I’m surprised you’re saying Silicon Valley didn’t have a culture of innovation, because that’s a little bit contrary to what I think,” Tangen shot back.

To this, Altman replied that Silicon Valley has a culture of product innovation, but he felt that it overshadowed groundbreaking research.

“I hate to say this, because it sounds so presumptuous, before OpenAI, what was the last really big scientific breakthrough that came out of a Silicon Valley company?” he said

Altman seems to attribute Silicon Valley’s shift away from innovation to the ease and allure of using existing technologies like the Internet and mobile phones to create “super-valuable companies” in a short amount of time—which “absorbed a lot of talent.”

This isn’t the first time Altman has explored Silicon Valley’s potential for innovation.

In 2017, when Altman was still president of startup accelerator Y Combinator, he published a 650-word blog post saying Silicon Valley’s culture of political correctness was bad for startups and new ideas.

In the same post, he argued that it is easier to express controversial views in China than in California.

And Altman is not alone in criticizing Silicon Valley’s ability to generate good ideas. Tech figures ranging from Marc Andreessen, partner at venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz, to Sequoia Capital partner Matt Miller, are critical of Silicon Valley’s approach to innovation.

Since its launch in 2015, Altman’s OpenAI has seen massive growth – the company’s valuation has grown from $27 to $29 billion by April 2023.

Although he co-founded the company, three years before ChatGPT was unveiled to the world, Altman joined the company as its full-time CEO in 2019.

Beyond his involvement in OpenAI, Altman co-founded eye-scanning orb startup WorldCoin and is a lead investor in longevity startup Retro Biosciences.

Sam Altman and OpenAI did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent outside regular business hours.

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