OpenAI’s Link to AI-Chip Startup Rain AI Raises Concerns and Turmoil, US


Following the recent turmoil at OpenAI, concerns have been raised over the potential $51 million investment in Rain AI, an AI-chip manufacturing startup. In a letter of intent reviewed by WIRED, OpenAI committed to purchasing $51 million worth of AI chips from Rain AI once developed. It is worth noting that Sam Altman, who had invested over $1 million in Rain AI, was overseeing OpenAI at the time.

Unnamed sources have reportedly stated that Altman’s personal pursuits in various Silicon Valley projects and the distractions they may have caused played a role in his recent ouster. These revelations add to the ethical and security concerns surrounding OpenAI’s investment in Rain AI.

Rain AI, located near OpenAI’s headquarters in San Francisco, is focused on developing neuromorphic processing units (NPUs) that aim to mimic the human brain. The 2019 agreement with Rain AI was part of OpenAI’s efforts to acquire advanced technology for its AI projects. However, Altman’s personal investment in Rain AI raised concerns about his potential conflicts of interest.

Founded in 2017, Rain AI seeks to revolutionize AI development with its NPUs, claiming to offer significant improvements in computing power and energy efficiency compared to traditional GPUs. Supported by Altman in its early stages, the startup has assembled a team of experts in AI algorithm development and chip design.

Initially, Rain AI’s chips, based on the RISC-V open-source architecture, target edge devices like phones, drones, cars, and robots. The company aims to provide chips capable of both training machine algorithms and running them post-deployment, which represents a significant advancement in AI chip technology.

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Despite Rain AI’s promising chip development, there are security concerns surrounding the startup’s funding and investment background. The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) intervened when Prosperity7 Ventures, a Saudi Arabia-affiliated fund, invested in Rain AI. CFIUS’s involvement led to the fund being mandated to divest its stake in Rain AI, highlighting the national security risks associated with foreign investments in critical technology sectors.

This divestment, along with changes in Rain AI’s leadership, may potentially delay the progress of the startup in bringing its chip technology to market. Such a delay could impact OpenAI’s ability to utilize Rain AI’s technology for its AI projects.

Rain AI has secured funding of $33 million as of April 2022, ensuring its operations until early 2025. However, the forced divestment from Prosperity7 Ventures and the subsequent acquisition of shares by Silicon Valley-based Grep VC have added complexity to Rain AI’s journey.

In summary, OpenAI’s potential $51 million investment in Rain AI raises ethical and security concerns. The involvement of Altman, conflicts of interest, and the global outlook on foreign investments in critical technology sectors all contribute to the complexity surrounding this partnership. As Rain AI progresses in its chip development, the impact on OpenAI’s AI projects remains to be seen.

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