OpenAI acquires AI design studio Global Illumination

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OpenAI, the AI company behind the viral AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT, has acquired Global Illumination, a New York-based startup leveraging AI to build creative tools, infrastructure and digital experiences.

It’s OpenAI’s first public acquisition in its roughly-seven-year-history. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

“We’re very excited for the impact they’ll have here at OpenAI,” OpenAI wrote in a brief post published to its official blog. “The entire team has joined OpenAI to work on our core products including ChatGPT.”

Global Illumination, launched by Thomas Dimson, Taylor Gordon and Joey Flynn, has been involved in a range of projects since its founding in 2021. Backed by VC firms Paradigm, Benchmark and Slow, Global Illumination’s team designed and built products early on at Instagram and Facebook as well as YouTube, Google, Pixar and Riot Games.

As director of engineering at Instagram, Dimson was instrumental in iterating the platform’s discovery algorithms. While there, he helped to start the teams responsible for Instagram’s Explore tab experience, feed and Stories ranking, IGTV and general data engineering.

Global Illumination’s most recent creation is Biomes, a Minecraft-like open source sandbox MMORPG built for the web. The game’s fate is unclear, but one would presume that the team’s work at OpenAI will have less of an entertainment bent.

OpenAI might’ve avoided acquisitions until now, but the company, backed by billions in venture capital from Microsoft and major VC players, has for several years run funds and grant programs to invest in emerging AI companies and organizations.

Certainly, OpenAI is on the hunt for a commercial win. While ChatGPT achieved global fame, OpenAI reportedly spent upwards of $540 million last year to develop it, including funds it used to poach talent from the likes of Google, according to The Information.

OpenAI made $30 million in revenue last year. But CEO Sam Altman has reportedly told investors that the company intends to boost that figure to $200 million this year and $1 billion next year.

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