OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been engaged in discussions with Middle Eastern investors and Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers in an effort to raise billions of dollars for an AI chip venture that would include the development of a global network of fabrication plants.

In November 2023, around the time Altman was suddenly fired and then rehired by OpenAI, Bloomberg reported that the CEO had been seeking investment to build an artificial intelligence chip company.

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Codenamed project 'Tigris,' the venture was motivated by OpenAI’s growing need for semiconductors and a desired to reduce its reliance on Nvidia. Around that time, the company had also reportedly evaluated a potential acquisition target in an effort to bring AI chip manufacturing in-house.

That same month, DCD reported that OpenAI hired the former lead of Google's TPU AI chip as the head of hardware.

Bloomberg has now reported that Altman has been approaching high-worth individuals in the Middle East to discuss the potential for investment, while the FT further disclosed that he had also approached chip manufacturer TSMC about getting the project off the ground.

Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan, one of Abu Dhabi’s wealthiest individuals, was named in the reports as being in talks with Altman. Sheikh Tahnoon is the brother of Abu Dhabi’s president and holds the position of national security advisor. He also chairs several investment funds, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), ADQ, and G42, the latter of which is an AI investment company that already has partnerships with Microsoft and OpenAI.

Founded in 2015 as an AI research organization, OpenAI was arguably the driving force behind the generative AI wave that swept across the globe following the release of the company’s ChatGPT chatbot in November 2022.

In 2023, OpenAI received a $10bn investment from Microsoft, a significant portion of which came in the form of compute resources from the company’s Azure cloud service.