Understanding OpenAI CEO Emmett Shear’s Twitch roots

Former Twitch CEO and cofounder Emmett Shear has been named the interim CEO of OpenAI following the board ousting Sam Altman on Friday. Shear stepped down from Twitch in March 2023 after 16 years at the games livestreaming service.

Altman appears to have been outed by OpenAI’s board due to a disagreement around AI Safety. Despite objections and an attempt to reinstate Altman, Shear was named OpenAI’s new CEO late Sunday night.

Shear began as Justin.tv’s CTO. When the company split into the games-foucused Twitch, he served as its CEO from its inception through its $970 million sale to Amazon in 2014. While his experience growing and moderating a platform has upside to OpenAI’s board, many have questioned his appointment, especially his lack of AI experience.

More likely, OpenAI’s board nominated Emmett Shear because they share a more cautious stance on AI. In an interview with tech podcaster Logan Bartlett posted in June, Shear shared mixed opinions about AI. Shear said he was generally an optimist about technology. On the other hand, he gave a 2-50% chance of AI taking over the world and eradicating human civilization.


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Twitch employees who worked with Shear gave a mixed response on his leadership.

“Shear has the community-focused experience derived from Twitch combined with his deeper understanding and passion for technology, so working on a broad consumer-facing technical product like this is right in his wheelhouse,” said Chase, former Twitch PR director now at StreamElements.

However, others were less positive saying Shear was more focused on side projects than improving core business functions. Shear resigned shortly before a round of 400 layoffs at Twitch. This was followed by smaller round last month.

Since leaving Twitch in March, Shear has served as visiting group partner at Y Combinator. Additionally, he was appointed as a board member for blockchain game developer, Proof of Play.

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