OpenAI’s New Board: Who Are Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo?

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The OpenAI drama that had Silicon Valley at a chokehold, thankfully, ended before Thanksgiving. Sam Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman are back in the office. OpenAI’s old board members – with the exception of Adam D’Angelo – are out and two new board members are in: Bret Taylor and Larry Summers. 

This is by no means the final ‘lineup’ of Avengers, but for now, here’s a look into who these board members are, and what the internet thinks of them.

Bret Taylor

Bret Taylor, co-chief executive officer of Inc., at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris, France, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. The conference, also known as VivaTech, runs though to June 18. Photographer: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bret Taylor comes with very respectable credentials. He is best known as the former CEO of Salesforce. But he was also the co-creator of Google Maps, and served as chief technology officer for Facebook.

Taylor was also chairman of Twitter’s board before it was purchased by Elon Musk. But that’s not all. He’s also currently serving as a board member of e-commerce giant Shopify.

The tech community seems to be reacting positively to Bret Taylor’s appointment to OpenAI’s board, praising the decision as “legit”. One executive at Shopify who has worked with Taylor described him as “kind, thoughtful, and incredibly ambitious”. A journalist also described Taylor as “the duct tape of Silicon Valley”. So, in all seriousness, daddy Taylor is here to fix sh*t.

“They say if you arrange seats like a boardroom a Bret Taylor appears,” jokes Amjad Massad, CEO of software integration platform Replit.

Larry Summers

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 7: Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers attends the official White House portrait unveiling ceremony for President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Yes, like, US government official Larry Summers. Summers is a macroeconomist who served as chief economist for the World Bank, and secretary for the US Treasury. So, you know that he’s good – maybe a little too good – with money and policymaking.

Unlike Taylor, Summers’ appointment to OpenAI’s board has been controversial. Some US users on X criticised his tenure at the US Treasury as one that benefitted major financial institutions but failed everyday Americans.

“The last shred of fiction that OpenAI is anything other than a standard-issue Silicon Valley co in relentless pursuit of profit is gone,” wrote tech columnist Brian Merchant.

“There is no greater indication that OpenAI is unserious about the interests of humanity than their elevation of Larry Summers to its Board of Directors… Summers is an ignorant person’s idea of an economic genius and a naive person’s notion of an impartial expert,” US executive government watchdog, Revolving Door Project said in a statement.

Adam D’Angelo

Adam D’Angelo, co-founder of Quora Inc., leaves the morning session in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Wednesday, July 6, 2011. Media executives gather at Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley conference this week looking to shed assets such as the Hulu LLC video website and G4 game channel amid a declining global stock market and slowing economic growth. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

… a.k.a the remaining ‘old’ board member from the Sam Altman ouster. Adam D’Angelo is the co-founder and CEO of Quora, a popular question and answer site.

Prior to Quora, D’Angelo was actually chief technology officer at Facebook, as it was called back then, and he held the position from 2006 to 2008. D’Angelo and Mark Zuckerberg were actually high school mates: they worked together on a music suggestion software named Synapse before D’Angelo left to study at the California Institute of Technology and Zuckerberg left for Harvard. 

D’Angelo founded Quora in 2009. By 2014, the company hit a valuation of US$900 million (AU$1.37 billion).

The Quora co-founder and CEO joined OpenAI’s board of directors in 2018. Everything was smooth-sailing until 2023, of course. Adam D’Angelo was one of the board members who voted to remove Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI. However, D’Angelo himself was reportedly actively involved in negotiations to bring back Altman. Now, he retains his board seat at OpenAI.

In a profile of D’Angelo by The Information, former Quora employees described him as having a “reputation of stubbornness”, and it was difficult to earn his trust. He also keeps a low profile and has “resisted attempts to invest in marketing or media relations” for Quora.