OpenAI is in talks to complete a deal that would value the company at $80 billion or more, nearly triple its valuation less than six months ago, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.
The company would sell existing shares in a so-called tender offer led by the venture firm Thrive Capital that would make OpenAI the most valuable start-up in San Francisco, that person said. OpenAI would also become one of the world’s most valuable tech start-ups, behind ByteDance and SpaceX, according to figures from the data tracker CB Insights.
Nearly a year after OpenAI sparked an A.I. boom with the release of the online chatbot ChatGPT, the Silicon Valley deal-making machine continues to pump money into the field’s leading companies.
Amazon said last month that it would invest up to $4 billion in another San Francisco start-up, Anthropic, one of OpenAI’s primary competitors. Over the summer, Cohere, a company founded by former Google researchers, raised $270 million, bringing its total funding to more than $440 million. Inflection AI, founded by a former Google executive, raised a $1.3 billion round, bringing its total to $1.5 billion.
In January, Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI, bringing its total investment in the company to $13 billion. In March, Character.ai, another start-up founded by former Google employees that builds online chatbots, raised $150 million in a funding round that valued the company at $1 billion.
A month later, the venture-capital firms Thrive Capital, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and K2 Global agreed to buy OpenAI shares in a tender offer, valuing the company at around $29 billion.
Now, Thrive is in talks to lead another tender offer that values the company at $80 billion or more, the person with knowledge of the deal said. OpenAI is not issuing new shares. The deal would allow the company’s employees to sell their existing shares.
OpenAI declined to comment.
Along with tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Meta, the A.I. start-ups are among a small group of companies capable of building chatbots such as powerful ChatGPT and similar A.I. systems.
Funding for other start-ups has fallen in recent years, as investors have favored profits over growth. But investor interest in A.I. start-ups remains the exception, because many believe artificial intelligence has the potential to upend current technologies and spur growth across the industry.
When it was released at the end of last year, ChatGPT captured the imagination of millions of people with its knack for answering questions, writing term papers and poetry, and generating computer code.
As the chatbot’s popularity grew, the wider tech industry embraced what is called generative artificial intelligence: technologies that can generate text, images and other media on their own.
The result of more than a decade of research inside companies like OpenAI and Google, generative A.I. technologies are poised to remake everything from internet search engines like Microsoft Bing to digital tutors to email programs.
Thousands of companies are exploring this new area, but only a few have the resources to build the technology from the ground up. These companies have an unusual blend of experienced researchers, enormous ambition and large amounts of money.