April 20, 2024

left side of Elon Musk resting his chin on his hand

Elon Musk during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Lancaster House on November 2, 2023 in London, England.
Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth – WPA Pool (Getty Images)

Not even the (sometimes) richest man in the world is immune from the AI talent war.

OpenAI is “aggressively recruiting” engineers from EV maker Tesla “with massive compensation offers,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said late Wednesday on his social media site X, adding that the ChatGPT maker has “unfortunately been successful in a few cases.”

Musk was responding to a report about Tesla’s computer vision chief Ethan Knight leaving the company for Musk’s AI company xAI. Musk said Knight was going to leave for OpenAI — which Musk is suing over its partnership with Microsoft — so it was between the two AI companies.

Tesla’s AI/Autonomy team has over 200 “excellent engineers,” Musk said, and its progress “is accelerating.” But, he said, the war for AI talent “is the craziest talent war I’ve ever seen.”

Musk said Tesla is increasing compensation for its AI engineering team “contingent on progress milestones,” in response to Twin Birch co-founder and Tesla investor Sawyer Merritt’s question about whether Tesla was matching OpenAI’s offers.

Neither OpenAI nor Tesla immediately responded to a request for comment.

Even as the tech industry leads layoffs in the U.S. this year, the AI sector is having a hard time finding talent — and it’s heating up a war for that talent in which offers are reportedly reaching up to $1 million. Industry leaders such as OpenAI and Facebook parent Meta all the way to small startups are also offering accelerated stock-vesting schedules to poach talent and even entire teams.

“There is a secular shift in what talents we’re going after,” Naveen Rao, head of Generative AI at Databricks, told The Wall Street Journal.“We have a glut of people on one side and a shortage on the other.”

OpenAI reportedly offered a median salary (including bonus and equity) of $925,000, Zuhayeer Musa, co-founder of compensation data and career platform Levels.fyi, told The Journal, based on the platform’s consultations with six OpenAI job candidates. And Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly written personal emails to Google DeepMind’s AI researchers to convince them to work with him.

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