Microsoft’s (kind of) OpenAI acquisition

November 21st, 2023

Together with

Just Friendsgiving. Hey there, FutureParty people. If you’re a fan of Ryan Reynolds (like us) and his holiday classic, Just Friends, then check out the actor’s latest commercial for Aviation American Gin. The festive ad reunites Reynolds with co-star Amy Smart for a “self-funded sequel” to their underrated rom-com, and we can’t get enough of it… even if it is predicated on a loose interpretation of IP law.

In other news… Sam Altman heads to Microsoft, community drives the creator economy, and Gen Z learns small talk.

Top Trends

YouTube → Genie

X → The Batman

Google → Aquaman

Reddit → Guillermo del Toro

Spotify →  “Artefact”

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

AI king // Illustration by Kate Walker

Microsoft wins the war at OpenAI

The Future. Microsoft turned lemons into lemonade by hiring OpenAI’s Sam Altman as the CEO of a new AI firm at the tech giant. While its hefty investment in OpenAI may turn out to be a bust, Microsoft is betting that giving Altman and co. a long leash to do as they please will help make that inevitable pain a distant memory. But the concerns of OpenAI’s board — which includes one of the most revered AI scientists and two execs with deep convictions about protecting humanity from the dangers of AI — still stand. That means it may now be ultimately up to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Nadella alone, to ensure profit doesn’t get in the way of safety.

Altman acquisition
Microsoft’s acquisition of OpenAI’s leadership will likely go down as one of the savviest business moves in Silicon Valley history.

  • Late Sunday night, Microsoft hired Sam Altman as CEO of a yet-unnamed AI company existing under Microsoft. OpenAI co-founder and president Greg Brockman is joining him, along with several other senior researchers who defected over the weekend.

  • And with over 700 OpenAI employees (95% of the company) threatening to quit unless the company’s board of directors resign and rehire Altman, they’ll likely join Altman at the new venture (Microsoft said they’ll hire whoever wants to come over).

  • The move is a boon to Microsoft, which saw its stock soar to an all-time high after the announcement of hiring the most prominent executive in AI.

  • Meanwhile, Microsoft still has a 49% stake in Open AI, having invested $13 billion in the firm, integrated ChatGPT into many of its products, and become the cloud-computing provider for the company. It gets to have its cake and eat it, too.

Now that Nadella has the influential founders on his executive team, he’ll likely let them loose to turn AI into one of Microsoft’s crown-jewel offerings (and a major moneymaker for the company). As part of OpenAI's unique structure, Microsoft’s profits were capped at a certain return-percentage. Now, the sky’s the limit.

And Altman has the ability to develop as fast as his heart desires, giving him the money (plenty of it) and resources (blue-chip branding and a fledgling microchip business) to unleash AI onto the world in his image.

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Community coin // Illustration by Kate Walker

The creator economy finds community

The Future. These days, every social platform wants to be more like Discord or Reddit — places where people can gather with like-minded folks and find entertainment, belonging, and support. They also want to put creators at the center of those communities. But it’s a trend far bigger than just the creator economy, encompassing industries as varied as film and online dating. The most successful of these communities may be the ones that get people off their computers, out of their homes, and into places where members can meet face-to-face.

Group chat
The creator economy is putting the “social” back in social networks.

  • Platforms like Patreon, Kajabi, WhatsApp, Fourthwall, and Automattic are redesigning their platforms to cater more to creators who can communicate and monetize their communities.

  • While that doesn’t sound very different from social shopping and content-plus subscriptions, the focus is on making it easier for creators to have more of a back-and-forth with their fans.

  • That includes beefing up messaging capabilities, conference calls, personalized notifications, “close friends” features, and, yes, hubs for exclusive content.

There are several reasons for the quick shift to community — what Kajabi head of products Teri Yu describes as a place for “developing relationships, supporting each other, [and] helping each other answer questions.” It’s a way to make subscriptions more “sticky,” help address the growing loneliness epidemic (especially among young people), and provide an alternative to social shopping, which hasn’t been the silver bullet companies expected it to be.

But, maybe more cynically, travel startup Dharma summed up the appeal when it wrote to investors that “belonging is the new luxury.”

May we all feel luxurious.

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A (bad) financial advisor’s worst nightmare

Your financial advisor wants to put your money in a position to grow, but how effective are they at actually building your nest egg?

Rainbook is the ultimate, no-cost, financial advisor evaluation tool, providing you with a full-spectrum analysis of your advisor and sizing up crucial factors like:

  • Your portfolio returns vs. benchmarks

  • Your actual fees

  • Your advisor’s credentials, engagement, and statements

Plus, it’ll give you ongoing monitoring, so you can keep tabs on your financial advisor’s performance.

If your advisor isn’t cutting it, Rainbook can quickly pair you with a new one better aligned with your investing goals.

It’s time to put subpar financial advisors on notice.

WORK

Small talk stress

Gen Z is going to class to learn small talk

The Future. Young people are so bad at professional networking that a number of collegiate classes are popping up to teach them the vital skill. While digital communication now comes second nature to the emerging workforce, shoring up soft skills for in-person small talk may decide whether someone lands a job or not.

Oral exam
Young people have a chitchat problem… so professors are putting together a syllabus.

  • Jana Mathews, a literature professor at Rollins College, started the Job Market Boot Camp to help students practice networking with alumni after finding her students severely lacked “interpersonal and communication skills” to succeed at job interviews.

  • Claire Ralph, a computer science lecturer at Caltech, started the alumni-networking event Tech Fest and the Dining with Teach event, “which pairs students and professionals for a simulated business lunch at a campus restaurant.”

  • Rachel Toor, a creative writing professor at Eastern Washington University, is going back to the basics of cover letter writing after finding her students were making them all about themselves and not about what they could do for the companies they were sending them to.

While there are various reasons why young people now stink at networking — despite doing it all the time — small talk in a professional setting is becoming a lost art. A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found only 54% of college seniors had “very/extremely proficient” communication skills.

It looks like we all need to find some time to get out there and shake some hands.

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Invest before the window closes

Spotting a promising early investment isn’t easy. But with RYSE  — the smart shade company — it kinda is. They have something big. They just launched in 100+ Best Buy retail stores. Plus, they pitched on Canada’s version of Shark Tank and received two offers.

Even the Sharks from Shark Tank declined the offer to buy 10% of Ring for $700,000. And you know the rest of the story: Amazon acquired Ring, which would’ve turned that investment into $10 million. Ugh, it must sting.

Exits in the smart home industry have been shown to yield massive returns for early investors, and the Sharks think they’ve spotted a winner in RYSE.

YOUR DAILY POLL

We ask the hard-hitting questions.

Are you using AI at work / in your job?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Many of you voted No on yesterday’s poll: Do you plan to buy a house next year?

“Love where I live and couldn’t afford what I have anywhere else.”

“Interest rates are too high to buy a house right now.”

“Moving out of California.”

Highlights

The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • Sony Pictures is cutting the ribbon on a 45,000-square-foot immersive entertainment complex that houses experiences based on franchises like Ghostbusters, Zombieland, Jumanjii, and Bad Boys. Read more → thr

  • The final game of the Cricket World Cup garnered 59 million concurrent livestream viewers for Disney’s Hotstar — the most simultaneous streaming viewers ever. Read more → techcrunch

  • HYBE and Geffen Records’ global competition to mint the next K-pop phenomenon has identified six finalists from 120,000 submissions to form its new girl group, KATSEYE. Read more → thr

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • Balenciaga dropped a T-shirt and hoodie capsule with a scannable NFC chip on the garments that unlocks exclusive music from trip-hop group Archive. Read more → hypebeast

  • Snoop Dogg didn’t actually give up smoking weed — he was simply lighting up a genius marketing ploy for a smokeless fire pit. Read more → complex

  • Tinder is super-liking Gen Z with a new “rizz-first design,” which includes a ton of different features to get people to swipe right. Read more → hypebeast

Tech, Web3, & AI

  • Apple is reportedly dropping the Vision Pro headset this March (just don’t actually drop it because it’s super expensive). Read more → techcrunch

  • Amazon is hosting free AI classes in an effort to train two million people on generative AI skills by 2025. Read more → engadget

  • Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and US-based startup Inkbit 3D-printed robotic hands that have human-like bones and tendons. Read more → arstechnica

Creator Economy

  • As the advertiser exodus continues at X, marketing leaders are pleading with CEO Linda Yaccarino to resign. Read more → axios

  • Creator bookkeeping startup Kick, which was backed by OpenAI, is shutting down its bank account — the fallout has begun. Read more → theinformation

  • Bindery is helping authors go from #BookTok to bookstore shelves with the announcement of its first four deals. Read more → tubefilter

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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Nick Comney. Copy edited by Kait Cunniff.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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