OpenAI has acquired Global Illumination, a small product studio that most recently built online mini games, the AI firm announced on Wednesday. The only product listed on Global Illumination’s website is Biomes, an open source sandbox MMPORG (Massive(ly) Multiplayer Online Role-playing game) built for the web.
It is the first (publicly announced) acquisition by the ChatGPT maker. The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed but the announcement confirmed that it is an acquhire and the entire team of Global Illumination has joined OpenAI to work on their core products, including ChatGPT.
Global Illumination had eight team members, including three founders; Thomas Dimson, Taylor Gordon, and Joey Flynn. All three of them previously worked at Meta. Thomas, the co-founder and CEO of the acquired company was previously the Director of Engineering at Instagram.
According to the information available on his LinkedIn, he worked on Instagram’s initiatives that involved ranking or machine learning, “Over the years, I helped start Instagram’s Explore team, Feed Ranking team, Stories Ranking team, Data Engineering team, IGTV and the NYC engineering office,” notes the profile adding that he was Engineer no. 16 at Instagram and the founding tech lead for platform’s feed ranking, explore ranking, and stories ranking products.
While OpenAI’s announcement highlights that Global Illumination has been leveraging AI to develop creative tools, infrastructure, and digital solutions, it appears that the AI company primarily acquired this team for their past experience rather than specifically for the projects they were working on at Global Illumination. This assumes that they weren’t working on undisclosed projects.
What’s interesting though is that Global Illumination was backed Paradigm, a VC firm that until last year at least focused exclusively on Web3 startups. The design studio had raised an undisclosed amount of money from them, Benchmark, and Slow Ventures, in a seed round in early 2022.
It would be interesting to see if this is the first in a series of many more acquisitions to come for OpenAI or if it is just one of those rare instances where they really liked a team and wanted to bring them in – without overall M&A strategy playing any role in it.