Who is Emmett Shear? From Twitch Pioneer to OpenAI Chief

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Who is Emmett Shear? Get to know the interim CEO of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research company behind ChatGPT. This biography covers Shear's youth, founding of live streaming service Twitch, its billion-dollar sale to Amazon, and Shear's qualifications to now lead OpenAI into the future of AI.

As interim CEO of AI research leader OpenAI, 40-year-old Emmett Shear brings a unique blend of startup leadership and technical prowess to guide the company into the future. But who is Emmett Shear, and how did he rise to such an influential role in artificial intelligence?

Who is Emmett Shear? The Tech Visionary Leading OpenAI

Emmett Shear is an American entrepreneur and technologist who rose to prominence as the co-founder and CEO of the live streaming platform Twitch. After building Twitch into a billion-dollar company and overseeing its sale to Amazon, Shear has now taken on a new challenge as the interim CEO of OpenAI, the leading artificial intelligence research company.

Shear’s journey from startup founder to head of one of the most influential AI organizations provides valuable insights into Silicon Valley leadership and innovation.

Early Life and Education

Born in Seattle, Washington in 1983, Shear demonstrated an early aptitude for technology and programming. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Yale University. At Yale, Shear honed his skills as a coder and began exploring ideas for technology startups. It was also at Yale that Shear first crossed paths with Sam Altman, who would later become the CEO of OpenAI.

Founding Twitch

After graduating from Yale, Shear enrolled in startup accelerator Y Combinator in 2005. This led him to co-found Justin.tv along with Justin Kan, Michael Seibel, and Kyle Vogt. The startup centered around live streaming Kan’s life 24/7 using webcam technology.

In 2011, the company decided to spin off its gaming live streaming operations into a new brand called Twitch. As Twitch, the live streaming platform grew exponentially, it became the main destination for gamers to broadcast gameplay.

Growth and Sale of Twitch

Under Shear’s leadership as CEO, Twitch cemented itself as the dominant platform for gaming live streaming. Twitch introduced innovations like video on demand, allowing broadcasters to store streams for later viewing.

The company also formed lucrative partnerships with game developers and platforms. By 2014, Twitch was ranking among sites like Netflix and Google in terms of internet traffic. That same year, Amazon acquired Twitch in a $970 million deal.

The Amazon acquisition allowed Twitch to invest heavily in content and technology. During Shear’s remaining time as CEO, Twitch expanded beyond just gaming into categories like music, sports, and entertainment. However, Twitch also faced controversies around issues like harassment. Shear worked to address these concerns by implementing new community guidelines and protections. He stepped down as Twitch CEO in 2022.

The Call to Leadership

On Nov. 17, 2023, OpenAI dismissed CEO Sam Altman and named CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO. On Nov. 20, three days after Altman’s exit, the company brought on Shear to take over leadership duties.

I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence, Shear declared in his post on X.

Shear’s experience scaling Twitch and background with AI safety made him an attractive choice.

Though initially hesitant to take the job, Shear felt compelled by OpenAI’s mission. As CEO, he now oversees development of AI like ChatGPT and sets strategy for responsible innovation. With his tech credibility and startup chops, Shear seems poised to guide OpenAI into its next phase of growth.