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Open AI Opens The Curtain on Musk

Week of 3/2-3/8 2024

What’s The Deal? Last week, Elon Musk was the richest man in the world. He was also the man who filed a seemingly high-principled lawsuit against a company he helped found and nurtured as a start-up, Open AI. 

What They Got Right. This week, not only did Tesla’s cratering stock price get Elon bounced out of first place in the Mr. Moneybags competition by jacked-up super stud Jeff Bezos, but he was pretty much snapped back into his place by Open AI’s masterful response to his lawsuit. 

On Background. Musk asserted that Open AI and its CEO, Sam Altman, had breached the firm’s founding mission; Open AI had tragically veered off course from being an open-source provider of safe artificial intelligence (carefully controlled so that it wouldn’t turn into that apocalypse-creating kind of AI that we are all having nightmares about lately). Instead, Chat GPT was simply a Microsoft for-profit tool based on its $13 billion investment.

The Response. Then, on Tuesday, Open AI published an article crisply outlining the timeline of Musk’s initial support and investment (including copies of Musk's emails supporting their POV). Elon Musk has been a strong supporter and founder of Open AI, investing $40 million. Then, starting in 2015, he wrote to leadership that outside ownership was inevitable. In 2017, Elon agreed with the company’s decision to become a for-profit entity. And then…surprise! Musk wanted majority equity, board control, and to be CEO. He is so, so selfless. When that discussion went nowhere, Musk suggested merging Open AI with Tesla. Yeah, again, no thanks. In its article, Open AI said, “We are sad that it’s come to this…” Musk did not respond to requests for comment on the article.

What’s the Watch Out. It was a very bold communications strategy for Open AI to step forward, pull out the emails, and give the world a blow-by-blow description of the actual timeline of events. These days, companies are much more likely “not to comment on pending litigation.” So, you can imagine there had to be at least a few nervous lawyers in the building this week. Open AI began life as a quasi .org but had to pivot its model as it grew based on the capital needs required to reach its goals. The company is now acknowledging the need for better governance, rebuilding its board, and adding seasoned team members, including in communications.

Bottom Line. We recognize Sam Altman and his executive team for their brilliant, timely communications strategy around what could have been an incendiary event. #ForTheWin.

Disclaimer: Open AI is not a Perceptual Advisors LLC client

About the Author

Hal is an experienced brand and marketing strategist. Prior to joining Perceptual Advisors, he co-founded and has led HEILBrice, which he founded with his wife August, 30 years ago. He continues to serve there as Executive Creative Director and head of Strategic Planning.

Hal has worked with C-Suite clients across the country in travel tourism, traditional and e-commerce retail, restaurants, and professional sports. Clients have included The Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, Ralphs, Kroger, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Clippers, Universal Studios Hollywood, Cirque du Soleil, IHOP, Marie Callender’s, Morgan’s Hotel Group and many more.

During his career Hal supervised the launch of 7 major customer loyalty programs and served on the Board of Directors of publicly traded organic grocer Wild Oats. He has been involved in the production of over 7,000 broadcast projects and is a member of the Director’s Guild of America. 

He studied journalism at the University of New Mexico and is a licensed helicopter pilot, a decent drummer and most proud of his marriage to August and his two fabulous girls. Hal and his family reside in Dallas Texas.