BSBA finds inspiration on startups from St. Louis native Sam Altman

  • December 23, 2020
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 2 minute read

Michael Spiro, BSBA 2021, recently spoke with St. Louis native Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI; former president of Y Combinator) for his newsletter/podcast, The Takeoff, which he runs with fellow WashU undergrads Lukas Steinbock and Roshan Chandna.

In the interview, Sam and Michael discuss Sam’s experience dropping out of Stanford to pursue a startup, the benefits of participating in YC, the importance of long-term thinking, the benefits of joining and founding a company early in your career, “getting good at sales,” risk-taking and more. Sam also shares his favorite food dish in St. Louis (Hint: it’s on The Loop).

Michael’s favorite quotes from the conversation:

Honestly, the best way to learn about a startup is just doing one. The first one may not work out, though sometimes it really does phenomenally well, but I think just getting going is super valuable.  

Sam Altman

  • On OpenAI: “I certainly believe I will have much more of an effect with OpenAI than anything else I’ve ever done or will do in my career…make, develop, and deploy into the world super powerful general AI. We all think that this will be the most important technological development in a very long time, possibly in human history… but I will say I think in four years we’ll have systems that are world-changing.”
  • On playing a long-term game: “Learning how to avoid the distraction of short term games, particularly games that even if you win, you still lose, is a very valuable skill.”
  • On getting good at sales: “But, the fun kind of sales is convincing someone of something that you deeply believe in. And when you think about it that way, at least when I think about it that way, that sounds cool and definitely something that is important to me to get good at.”
  • On knowing when something is working: “Most things don’t work, but when something is truly legitimately working, it is unmistakable.”

Sam Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, an AI research and deployment company working to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. Prior to joining OpenAI, Sam was President of Y Combinator, the world’s leading startup accelerator. Sam’s blog can be found, here and his Twitter here.”

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Washington University in Saint Louis

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