Israeli startups that could interest Sam Altman

Published date31 May 2023
In meetings with international leaders like UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron, Altman has been discussing regulation and policy issues related to AI but the declared aim of his international tour is one of business and technology. Altman does not want to look like he is consulting with European leaders on regulatory and privacy

In Israel, Altman will meet with President Isaac Herzog and most likely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will be hosted at the Microsoft campus in Herzilya and deliver a lecture at Tel Aviv University. Altman, a US Jew, will also visit members of his family who live in Israel.

Concern about over-regulation

There is a growing belief in the local market that Altman is eager to do business in Israel - either through an acquisition or investment. At the same time, the likelihood that Altman will complete an acquisition in Israel at this stage is low. First, OpenAI is a highly centralized company that runs all of its operations from San Francisco. At present, all the jobs posted on its site are for the one development site only.

Although Altman mentioned in his meetings in European capitals that he would like to establish a development center on the continent, if such a decision is made, it will be located in an EU country, which is challenging OpenAI on regulatory issues. Italy, for example, imposed a temporary embargo on the company's chatbot ChatGPT because it does not verify the user's age despite collecting personal data. The EU, which has already imposed fines on Meta and Google, is warning OpenAI that stricter regulation is on the way, and while in London, Altman played to a Brexit audience, by saying that the EU's efforts could amount to "over-regulation."

Poland is perhaps the most likely location for Altman's development center. He visited there last week and met with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Altman even made positive remarks about establishing activities in Poland.

The Israel connection

That said, Israel's tech sector could provide Altman with many business opportunities. There are dozens of startups operating in Israel that are developing or have realized creative AI models, backed by investors who specialize in the field in the past year, and academic institutions such as the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Technion and Tel Aviv University that have produced prominent researchers in the field. Several executives at OpenAI have an Israeli background, although they do not...

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