HomeWinBuzzer NewsY Combinator's Paul Graham: Sam Altman Didn´t get Fired

Y Combinator’s Paul Graham: Sam Altman Didn´t get Fired

Contrary to Graham's account, reports from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post suggested that Altman faced pressure to resign.


Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator, has publicly refuted claims suggesting that was compelled to resign as president of the startup accelerator in 2019. Graham used a series of posts on X to clarify that Altman's departure was a mutual decision, driven by his growing commitment to .

Altman's Dual Roles and Transition

Sam Altman initially joined Y Combinator as a part-time partner in 2011. By February 2014, he had ascended to the role of president, appointed by Graham himself. In 2015, Altman co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit organization, with prominent figures like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, securing $1 billion in funding. Balancing his responsibilities at both Y Combinator and OpenAI, Altman continued until March 8, 2019, when he stepped down from Y Combinator. Just three days later, OpenAI announced a shift to a “capped-profit” model, introducing a for-profit subsidiary.


Contrary to Graham's account, reports from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post suggested that Altman faced pressure to resign due to prioritizing his personal projects over Y Combinator duties. The Washington Post even reported that Graham had to cut short an overseas trip to personally request Altman's resignation. Former OpenAI board member Helen Toner, in an interview on “The TED AI Show,” claimed that the true reasons behind Altman's departure were not disclosed at the time.

Investment Concerns

Within Y Combinator, some partners were reportedly uneasy about Altman's indirect stake in OpenAI while he was still serving as president. Y Combinator's late-stage fund had invested $10 million in OpenAI's for-profit arm. Graham clarified that this investment occurred before Altman committed full-time to OpenAI and that he was unaware of the investment until recently. He emphasized that the investment was not substantial enough to influence his decisions.

The debate over Altman's departure has resurfaced amid heightened interest in his leadership at OpenAI. Altman was briefly dismissed as CEO in November after OpenAI's board accused him of not being consistently candid in his communications. Helen Toner, in her podcast interview, accused Altman of repeatedly lying to the board. She reiterated these claims in an op-ed co-written with former board member Tasha McCauley, published in The Economist, arguing that OpenAI couldn't self-govern effectively with Altman at the helm.

Rebuttals and Defenses

In response, current OpenAI board members Bret Taylor and Larry Summers published a rebuttal in The Economist, defending Altman against Toner and McCauley's allegations. They stated, “We do not accept the claims made by Ms. Toner and Ms. McCauley regarding events at OpenAI.” They also acknowledged the significant impact of AI's evolution on human history and emphasized the need for accountability and in democratic societies.

Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus is the founder of WinBuzzer and has been playing with Windows and technology for more than 25 years. He is holding a Master´s degree in International Economics and previously worked as Lead Windows Expert for Softonic.com.

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