OpenAI's Sam Altman’s planned AI chip venture reportedly has a multi-trillion-dollar price tag.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the conversations Altman has been having with potential investors said his project would require between $5 and $7 trillion worth of funds.

Dollars, money
– Thinkstock / Adam Gault

The news comes weeks after it was first reported that Altman was in discussions with Middle Eastern investors and chip manufacturing companies in an effort to raise money to shore up the AI chip supply chain with a venture that would include the development of a global network of fabrication plants.

Altman has also reportedly been having discussions with members of Congress about increasing the global supply of semiconductors capable of supporting AI workloads.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), last year global semiconductor sales reached $527 billion. That figure could reach $1 trillion annually by 2030, according to analysis from McKinsey.

International Monetary Fund projections for 2023 put the entire world's gross domestic product (GDP) at $105 trillion, $5 trillion higher than the year before. This project would be of a similar size to the combined growth of all of the world's economies across 2023.

Demand for chips that can support AI workloads has never been greater. But, chip designers such as Nvidia - which relies on TSMC for manufacturing - have struggled to keep pace. Nvidia has been rationing the availability of its H100 GPUs, with the company saying it expected the shortages to persist for around 18 months.

Furthermore, despite chip manufacturers such as TSMC and Intel committing billions of dollars to build new chip fabs across the US, Japan, and Europe, a number of these facilities have had their production dates pushed back owing to several challenges, including a lack of skilled workers.

Altman has not yet commented publicly about his rumored discussions.

Earlier this week he posted on X, the social media platform formally known as Twitter: “We believe the world needs more ai infrastructure--fab capacity, energy, datacenters, etc--than people are currently planning to build. building massive-scale ai infrastructure, and a resilient supply chain, is crucial to economic competitiveness. openai will try to help!”

Before Altman was suddenly fired and then rehired by OpenAI in November 2023, Bloomberg reported that the CEO had been seeking investment to build an artificial intelligence chip company codenamed project ‘Tigris,' possibly more focused on the design of chips.

He is also an investor in neuromorphic semiconductor company Rain AI, which OpenAI has pledged to buy chips from.

OpenAI is said to have evaluated a potential acquisition target in an effort to bring AI chip manufacturing in-house, having hired the former lead of Google's TPU AI chip as the company’s head of hardware.