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Open AI's firefighting COO is a 32-year-old ex-JPMorgan analyst

If you thought life might be easier outside investment banking, doing strategy for a technology company, then Brad Lightcap's weekend suggests you're wrong.

Aged circa 32, Lightcap is COO at OpenAI, the technology company behind ChatGPT. OpenAI fired its CEO, Sam Altman, on Friday and is now under pressure to reinstate him and to fire its board instead. Lightcap has this weekend been busy firefighting and sending internal memos seeking to explain the removal Altman on the basis of "a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.”

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Maybe Lightcap should have stayed in banking instead? Just over a decade ago, after graduating from Duke University, Lightcap got a job at JPMorgan as an investment banking analyst in New York City. There he stayed for only 18 months before moving into strategy finance at DropBox, become a VC at YCombinator, and joining OpenAI as CFO in 2018 before becoming COO in 2022. 

Altman co-founded OpenAI with Greg Brockman, the original CTO of Stripe. Brockman quit yesterday in the wake of Altman's departure. Lightcap was hired by Altman to build-out OpenAI's enterprise business. As COO, however, he's now charged with binding the company together and preventing more staff from leaving. The firm has expanded dramatically under his purview, adding over 350 people in the last year. 

In his memo on Saturday, Lightcap suggested he was as surprised as everyone else by Altman's exit.  It “took everyone by surprise,” he reflected.

Open AI is valued at around $29bn. Before he left, Altman was trying to raise additional backing from Microsoft, which committed $10bn of investment earlier this year. Microsoft is asking that Altman be reinstated.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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