Can You Buy OpenAI Stock?

You can’t buy OpenAI stock — but you can invest in one of its partners. Investors may find it valuable to keep up with OpenAI news.
Sam Taube
By Sam Taube 
Published
Edited by Chris Davis

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We’re not going to make you scroll through an entire article for your answer: No, you cannot buy OpenAI stock because it’s not a publicly-traded company.

But one of OpenAI’s partners is a blue-chip technology company that you can invest in. And if you have any interest in AI stocks or tech stocks in general, you may find it worthwhile to keep up on the latest news from OpenAI.

» You can also check out the top-performing AI ETFs.

What is OpenAI?

OpenAI is a California-based artificial intelligence research organization led by tech entrepreneur Sam Altman. It’s the developer of the generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) AI models that power popular AI products like ChatGPT and DALL-E.

OpenAI’s mission, according to its charter, is to “ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) — by which we mean highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work — benefits all of humanity

Open AI. Open AI Charter. Accessed Dec 14, 2023.
.”

The organization is widely perceived as being on the cutting-edge of AI development. It also plays a prominent role in AI safety — the study and practice of avoiding conflict between AI and humans — although its approach to AI safety has been controversial.

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Can you buy OpenAI stock?

As previously mentioned, you can’t buy OpenAI stock because it isn’t a publicly-traded company — technically, it isn’t even a company at all, in the conventional sense.

» Need to back up a bit? Check out our primer on how to buy stocks.

OpenAI has an unusual structure consisting of a nonprofit organization (OpenAI, Inc.) and a for-profit company (OpenAI Global, LLC) that is owned by that nonprofit organization. The nonprofit, OpenAI, Inc. is led by a board of directors consisting of experts on technology and economics, and is focused on guiding the development of AI in a safe and ethical way.

OpenAI employees have equity in the for-profit company, OpenAI Global, which owns the rights to OpenAI’s models and generates revenue by licensing them out to users.

OpenAI Global’s profit margins are “capped” at 100 times the initial investment on a project, which is why it is allowed to operate as a for-profit subsidiary of the nonprofit OpenAI, Inc

.

Why is OpenAI in the news so often?

It’s understandable that someone might think they can buy OpenAI stock, given how often the organization appears in headlines (both positive and negative).

In recent years, OpenAI has received a lot of positive news coverage for the sophistication of its AI models. It has also received a lot of negative coverage for what some consider its lax approach to AI safety — and for recent drama involving its leadership. Here’s a timeline:

AI for consumers: Foundation, DALL-E, ChatGPT and GPT-4

  • Dec. 2015: OpenAI is founded by Altman, Greg Brockman (former chief technology officer of Stripe) Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn), Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal), Elon Musk, Jessica Livingston (co-founder of venture capital firm Y Combinator), Amazon Web Services, InfoSys and Y Combinator

    Open AI. Introducing Open AI. Accessed Dec 14, 2023.
    .

  • January 2021: OpenAI launches DALL-E, one of the first AI image generation tools available to consumers. DALL-E generates images based on a text prompt provided by the user.

  • November 2022: OpenAI launches ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that can autonomously converse with users in a variety of human languages. ChatGPT was not necessarily the first-ever AI chatbot — but like DALL-E, it was one of the first AI products of its kind to be released to the public for commercial use.

  • March 2023: OpenAI launches GPT-4, a large upgrade to the GPT-3 model that powered the first versions of DALL-E, and the GPT-3.5 model that powered ChatGPT. OpenAI claims that GPT-4 scores in the top 10% on the Uniform Bar Examination, while GPT-3.5 scores in the bottom 10%

    OpenAI. GPT-4. Accessed Dec 14, 2023.
    .

Safety concerns, removal and return of Sam Altman

  • Late 2023 (exact date unknown): A group of OpenAI researchers write a secret letter to OpenAI’s nonprofit board warning that a new AI project they’re working on, known as Q* or Q-star, could be dangerous to humanity. (Some researchers fear that reckless AI development could eventually lead to mass unemployment, or even to violence between humans and AI, as in Terminator or The Matrix.)

  • November 2023: The nonprofit board votes to remove Altman as CEO, allegedly over safety concerns related to Q*, among other issues. Over the following weekend, more than 700 OpenAI employees publicly vow to resign if Altman is not reinstated. The board relents, reinstates Altman and then dissolves itself. A new board is formed.

Can you invest in OpenAI’s partners?

If you’re looking to invest in a company that has a substantial relationship with OpenAI, there’s really only one option: Microsoft (MSFT), which invested $1 billion in the organization in 2019.

Two other publicly-traded companies donated to OpenAI at its inception: Amazon (AMZN) and Infosys (INFY). However, neither has reportedly maintained much of a relationship with OpenAI since then.

» Get our primer on stock research.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has only deepened its ties with OpenAI over time. In January 2023, it announced an additional $10 billion investment in OpenAI — about a third of the organization’s market value at the time.

Then, in February 2023, the company announced that it would integrate AI technology developed by OpenAI into its Bing search engine, its Edge web browser and several other products

.

» Dive deeper into big tech with our overview of the FAANG stocks

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The bottom line on OpenAI

You can’t buy OpenAI stock, but that doesn’t mean the organization isn't on investors' radars.

It’s the most prominent AI developer in the world. It’s at the center of many conversations about what AI safety means — and what a benevolent AGI might look like. And it’s worth tens of billions of dollars.

At the time of writing, there’s no way to invest directly in OpenAI — and Microsoft is the only indirect investment in the organization available. But that could change in the future, if OpenAI continues to be in the vanguard of AI research.

» Interested in other AI investments? Learn how to buy NVIDIA stock (NVDA)

Neither the author nor editor owned positions in the aforementioned investments at the time of publication.

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