After a weekend of chaos at OpenAI, the company’s board of directors appointed former Twitch boss Emmett Shear interim CEO late Sunday. It was just the latest in a string of tumultuous changes at the AI company following Friday’s ouster of CEO Sam Altman, and it left many wondering what kind of CEO Shear would be, why the board had chosen him, and how much he would differ from Altman.
Shear was one of four cofounders of Justin.tv, launched in 2006. In June 2011, the site moved its gaming content to its new Twitch platform, which soon became the go-to place for video game streaming, with millions of monthly streamers. Amazon bought the company for $1 billion in 2014.
“He’s a typical Silicon Valley engineer type,” says one senior Twitch employee, who worked with Shear for a number of years and spoke on the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak to the media. “Highly intelligent but socially awkward.” Shear was not the best communicator, the senior Twitch employee says, and he benefited from having a lot of experienced people around him. “He could be very blunt,” they add.
The former Twitch employee also portrayed Shear as an eccentric character who spoke from the heart, sometimes without thinking, they claim. The former employee recalls being in a presentation where Shear was, they claim, playing Hearthstone on his phone rather than paying attention to the discussion.
Since the OpenAI board announced the appointment of Shear, several of his old posts on X have been shared on social media. In one, he discussed the prevalence of rape fantasies; in another, he offers that while “Nazis were very evil,” there are scenarios worse than a Nazi takeover. Shear did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shear’s appointment as OpenAI CEO caused confusion across Silicon Valley, largely because in the hours before the announcement there were reports indicating that Altman might be reappointed. There were also questions about what Shear’s track record at Twitch might indicate about his leadership at OpenAI. Mira Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer who was appointed interim CEO on Friday, lasted just one weekend on the job. On Monday, her name was at the top of a list of more than 500 OpenAI employees calling on the board to resign.