What does OpenAI do?
ML model vendor? Or the most interesting company in the world?
OpenAI researches and builds Machine Learning models, and sells access to them.
Building ML models yourself to use day in and day out is really hard for companies without specialized expertise
For years, big companies (Google, AWS, etc.), and smaller startups too, have built businesses on selling access to their home grown models
The company is a bit strange: they’re a combination of a non-profit and for-profit corporation
OpenAI has obviously been all over the news over the past year, and is probably one of the most important companies in the world right now – so let’s dig in.
The business of wheeling and dealing ML models
While OpenAI is a unique case study of a company, what most people forget (or don’t know) is that their business model is not particularly novel. Companies have been selling access to ML models for a while (probably 5+ years?), ranging from your typical big company stuff to smaller, more specialized startups.
Imagine you’re a software engineer at an e-commerce company, and you want to build a basic recommendation engine to recommend relevant products after someone buys something. What are your options?
You can do it manually for each product. This can work early on, but doesn’t really scale.
You could try and build it yourself, but you don’t have a Data Science background. You could probably pick it up in a few weeks? But then you wouldn’t be doing other work your team needs.
You could hire a Data Scientist, but how much would that cost? How long would it take? You’re probably looking at at least 6 months before you’d see anything ready to test.
Many teams do opt for one of these options. But your most straightforward bet is to buy a model from someone instead of building it yourself. Even for something as specific as a recommendation system, you’ve got a few options in the market:
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