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Who is Emmett Shear, the new CEO of OpenAI?

The former head of Twitch must now try to stabilize an artificial intelligence company in turmoil

Emmett Shear, co-founder and former CEO of Twitch, speaks during TwitchCon in 2022 in San Diego. Shear has been tapped to lead OpenAI after Sam Altman was ousted as CEO on Friday. (Robin L Marshall/Getty Images)
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Emmett Shear is a seasoned Silicon Valley founder. An early pioneer in streaming culture. A new father. And now, he’s interim CEO of perhaps the world’s most influential — and more recently, most dramatic — artificial intelligence company.

After a tumultuous weekend that began with CEO Sam Altman being ousted by OpenAI’s board of directors, former Twitch chief Shear now finds himself in charge of the company — despite having relatively little AI experience.

“I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence,” he wrote in a long post on X, formerly Twitter, early Monday morning. “When the board shared the situation and asked me to take the role, I did not make the decision lightly. Ultimately I felt that I had a duty to help if I could.”

Shear declined to speak with Washington Post reporters about his new role.

He’s the second person to take on the mantle of interim CEO in just a few days, replacing OpenAI’s chief technology officer Mira Murati — a decision that has also stirred strife inside the company, according to a scathing letter signed by hundreds of employees. Who is he? And what does he plan to do at the helm of OpenAI?

Here’s what we know.

Where did he come from?

The 40-year-old Yale graduate first made a splash in start-up circles in 2005 as co-founder of Kiko, a company developing an easy-to-use web-based calendar.

Kiko, which was backed by the influential start-up accelerator Y Combinator, didn’t last long. But Shear made a connection at Y Combinator that set him on his current path: Altman, the future OpenAI CEO, was part of his cohort. Shear eventually went through the program again with his Kiko co-founder Justin Kan, this time to build a business that would stream Justin’s life 24/7.

The site at the center of it all — — would eventually evolve into, the popular platform that Amazon acquired in 2014. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post, and the newspaper’s interim CEO, Patty Stonesifer, sits on Amazon’s board.)

Shear remained CEO of Twitch until March of this year, when he said he was stepping down to be “fully there” for his then-newborn son.

Why him?

On the surface, Shear appears an unorthodox choice to lead one of the world’s most valuable start-ups.

Much of Shear’s recent career has been devoted to Twitch, and while the service hosts plenty of channels and streamers that use AI, the company notably doesn’t rely much on artificial intelligence.

One of the few exceptions: A tool called AutoMod, launched during Shear’s tenure, uses machine learning to identify and hold offensive comments in a stream’s chat so that a moderator can review them manually.

Though Shear hasn’t led an AI firm, his experience growing customer-facing platform Twitch may have been attractive to the OpenAI board in light of the company’s ambitions to sell directly to consumers.

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