At the end of last week, at a rare discussion small audiencethis editor spent an hour with Sam Altman, former president of Y Combinator and CEO of Y Combinator since 2019 Open AIa company he famously co-founded with Elon Musk and many others in 2015 to develop artificial intelligence for the “good of mankind.”
The crowd wanted to know more about his plans for OpenAI, which has taken the world by storm in the past six weeks with the public release of its ChatGPT language model. warned(OpenAI’s DALL-E technology, which allows users to create digital images by simply describing what they envisioned, was slightly less talked about when it went public early last year.) was only.)
But Altman is also an active investor, telling the event that his biggest returns to date have come from payments startup Stripe, so we spent the first half of the hour working on his most ambitious investment. I spent some time concentrating on a few things.
Learn about these including supersonic jets company and startups aiming to support Making babies from human skin cells, see the 20 minute video below. You can also hear his Altman thoughts on his Twitter under Elon Musk’s control and why he’s “less concerned” with crypto and web3. (“I love the spirit of the web3 people,” he said Altman with a shrug.
We’ll cover more from the fuller conversation soon. In the meantime, below is an excerpt from one of Altman’s biggest bets: a discussion called The Fusion Company. hellion energy Like OpenAI, it aims to deliver on a promise that has long been elusive—this is one of energy in abundance. Excerpts have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What was the reason for signing Sam Altman?
At the moment, I try to only do things that interest me. One thing I’ve noticed is that all the companies that I think have added a lot of value are thinking about it in their free time, like hiking, texting their founders or saying, “Hey, I love you.” I have this idea for Every founder deserves an investor who thinks of them during their hike. So I tried to stay with what I really like, what tends to be hard tech. [involving] years of research and development, [is] Either it’s capital intensive, or it’s kind of risky research. But if it works, it really works.
One particularly interesting investment is Helion Energy. You know he’s been funding this company since 2015 but last year people were surprised when he announced a $500 million round including a $375 million check from you I think Not many people can write a $375 million check.
Or many people who like [invest it] In one dodgy fusion company.
What has been your most successful investment to date?
I mean, probably multiple-based, definitely multiple-based: Stripe. Also, I think it was my second investment, so it seemed a lot easier. good. But you know, I’ve been doing this for 17 years, so there’s been a lot of really good stuff. And I am extremely grateful to be in Silicon Valley during such a magical time.
Helion is more than just an investment for me. I spend most of my time outside of OpenAI. I’m so excited to see what happens there.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved a fusion breakthrough last month. (Using an approach that included giant lasers, the scientist announced the first nuclear fusion reaction in the lab. more energy than used to initiate the reaction. ) What do you think of that approach, which is so different from Helion’s? reportedly It’s long and narrow, and uses a big chunk of aluminum to compress fuel and expand it to extract electricity).
I am very happy with them. I think it’s a very good scientific result. As they themselves said, I don’t think it’s commercially relevant. , to build a system that works at an ultra-low cost.
Looking at how energy has changed so far, if we can lower the cost of new forms of energy, we can take over everything else in a few decades. It’s also a system. This is both from the point of view that the machine will not break down and there will be no intermittence or storage of solar, wind etc. If we can produce enough on Earth in ten years or so, I think that’s the hardest challenge that Hellion really faces. Think about what it really means to build a factory that can produce yearly. This is a very difficult problem, but it is also a very fun problem.
So I am very happy that there is a fusion race. I think that’s great. Also, I’m very happy that solar and batteries are getting so cheap. But I think the question is, who has the cheapest and most abundant supply of energy?
Why is Helion’s approach better than what dozens of countries in the South of France are working on?
oh well, that thing, Itel, which would probably work, but I think it would be commercially irrelevant to what I just said.they also [themselves] I think it becomes commercially irrelevant.
The appeal of the Helion to me is that it’s a simple machine that’s reasonably priced and reasonably sized.There are various elements other than giants [experimental machine being developed by these nations], but what’s very cool is that it’s not heat that comes out of the reaction, but charged particles.most other [alternatives], such as coal plants and natural gas plants, produce heat to drive steam turbines. Hellions create charged particles that push the magnet back, causing an electric current to flow through the wire. No heat cycle at all. This makes for a much simpler and more efficient system.
I think it’s been missed by the whole fusion discussion, [is] Really great. It also means we don’t have to deal with a lot of nuclear material. No hazardous waste or even dangerous systems. It can be touched immediately after the power is turned off.
is building. big facility just now. Does it still prove its proposition?
We will be able to share more information soon. . .
My general approach was that if there was an area that I thought was really important, like energy for example, I would try to find the best fusion and the best fission companies I could. But we desperately need cheaper energy. It’s a huge market. I believe both can work.