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OpenAI's Remarkable Commercial Success with ChatGPT: A Comprehensive Business Analysis

This article is adapted and translated from:《營收百億,大漲4,500%,ChatGPT的商業化之路

ChatGPT's commercialization has been attracting attention from the industry, however, the situation of "good but not great" seems to be a thing of the past. According to The Information, citing sources familiar with the matter, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, disclosed to his employees this week that OpenAI's annual revenue has reached US$1.3 billion. This means that OpenAI's average monthly revenue has exceeded $100 million, which is equivalent to RMB 730 million and represents a 30% increase from this summer. It's worth noting that this summer alone, OpenAI's annual revenue was revealed to be $10 billion. This rapid growth stems mainly from users' subscriptions to ChatGPT, and OpenAI's revenue has been climbing since the paid version was launched in February.

Last year, OpenAI only realized $28 million in annual revenue, while today that figure has reached $1.3 billion, an annual increase of more than 4,500%. The release of ChatGPT has made OpenAI a benchmark in the field of generative AI, and its large-scale models have been rapidly integrated into various life and industry scenarios, bringing significant commercial growth and injecting powerful momentum into the entire AI industry.

Altman said that OpenAI's annualized revenue far exceeded his previous expectations. Initially, he predicted that OpenAI would realize annual revenues of $200 million in 2023 and reach $1 billion in 2024. However, in September, he revised his annual revenue forecast upward again, putting it in the billions of dollars. This figure broke the record again.

Since the end of August this year, ChatGPT's daily active users, average time spent and total daily visits have been increasing. According to Appfigures, a market intelligence firm, ChatGPT has set new records for growing mobile app installations and revenue. Globally, its iOS and Android apps have been downloaded 15.6 million times, generating nearly $4.6 million in revenue. From $2.1 million in June, to $2.74 million in July, to $3.81 million in August, ChatGPT's total revenue has been on the rise. In addition, OpenAI sells API access to AI models directly to developers and enterprises through a fee-based model of API (Application Programming Interface) calls, with computing support for these provided by Microsoft Cloud Servers.

By constantly updating products such as ChatGPT, OpenAI is attempting to move away from the previous low price, low frequency API model of charging by Token to a high pricing, high stickiness 2B subscription fee as well as a diverse range of customized solutions.

It's worth noting that OpenAI only realized $28 million in revenue for the whole of last year, while current annualized revenue has grown by up to 45 times compared to last year.

Meanwhile, Altman talked about his advice to startups during the sharing session. He emphasized that companies that simply use the OpenAI model to innovate have limited room for survival. Taking UI design as an example, Altman pointed out that if a company is only slightly better than ChatGPT in user interface design, it is not considered innovative. OpenAI itself has continuously improved its interface, making it difficult for companies that focus on UI to establish a sustainable competitive advantage. He believes that future innovations should focus on technological and model breakthroughs, not just on solving small problems or optimizing the UI.

Altman also talked about the potential applications of AI in healthcare and education. He believes that excellent AI medical assistants have the potential to bring great benefits to society, such as Google's AI medical model Med-PaLM's achievement in Nature magazine. In addition, Altman is optimistic about the use of AI in individualized education, providing AI tutors that offer customized teaching and guidance to each student. Such highly personalized AI coaches are expected to improve the quality of education on a large scale.

Altman believes that OpenAI's success does not mean that other companies can easily succeed, especially those that simply apply the OpenAI model. In fact, OpenAI's phenomenal success is due to its unique path and strategy.

Compared to OpenAI, another star AI research organization, GoogleDeepMind, is showing a downturn in performance. According to the documents submitted by the British government, DeepMind's revenue and profit fell sharply last year, with revenue of 1.081 billion pounds (about 1.329 billion U.S. dollars), an annual decline of 20.8%, and profit of 60.9 million pounds (about 74.9 million U.S. dollars), a decline of 40% compared with the same period last year. Prior to this, DeepMind was known for its outstanding AI models such as AlphaGo, AlphaGo Zero, MuZero, and groundbreaking research such as AlphaFold, but these areas of research sit somewhere between AI, science, and gaming, and it has adopted a high-investment, low-return strategy that has relied heavily on the financial support of its parent company, Alphabet, in recent years. Last year's slump in results has warned against DeepMind's business model.

Microsoft is also running into problems with its first generative AI offerings. Sources familiar with the matter revealed that Microsoft incurred losses with the launch of its GitHub Copilot service, which helps programmers create, fix and translate code with the help of AI technology from its partner OpenAI. The service brought in losses due to high operational costs. Overall, investment and financing in the generative AI space is growing slowly, with not only big companies facing challenges, but also startups announcing layoffs and slashing revenue expectations.

OpenAI has achieved remarkable commercial success, but it has not stopped making progress. Altman said that in the future, big models must have the ability to export in multiple modes, and OpenAI is now preparing for this.


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