OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Got Scurvy Working on His Start-up

Anti-Aging Medicine
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  • Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, said he got scurvy from working too hard on his start-up, Loopt. 
  • After selling Loopt in 2012, he took a year off to read, travel, and go on a spiritual retreat. 
  • The leader behind ChatGPT now takes his health seriously as part of his anti-aging routine

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, may have learned how to manage his work load the hard way — through malnutrition, according to a New York Magazine profile.

Before Altman started leading efforts behind ChatGPT, the buzzy conversational AI chatbot, he first stepped into the tech start-up world in 2004 when he was a sophomore at Stanford University.

At the time, Altman started working on a start-up called Loopt — software that aimed to geo-locate your friends — with his now ex-boyfriend, Nick Sivo, after Altman won a $6,000 investment from Y Combinator’s Summer Founders Program. That grant gave him the opportunity to live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a few months to work on the company among like-minded techies.

Unfortunately, Altman’s ambitions may have pushed his physical limitations a little too far. He told New York Magazine he worked so hard on building Loopt that he got scurvy — a vitamin C-deficiency that stems from not eating enough fruits and vegetables, according to the US National Institutes of Health. Symptoms of scurvy, according to medical experts, include weakness, fatigue, and bone pain — and at its worst, bleeding gums, swelling, and skin rashes.

Still, Loopt didn’t become as popular as Altman had hoped.

Years after Loopt launched in 2005, he said the friend locator tool didn’t really resonate with users, and in 2012, he sold the company to Green Dot, a financial tech company, for $43.3 million — a move he said left him feeling “pretty unhappy.” Altman broke up with Sivo — whom he thought was going to marry — around that same time, he told The New Yorker.

But Loopt might have been the wake-up call Altman needed to manage his work-life balance.

After selling the company, Altman said he took a year and off and spent his free time reading books, traveling, and playing video games. He even decided to go on a secluded wellness retreat called an ashram — which he said did wonders for his mental health.

“It changed my life,” Altman told New York Magazine in regard to the ashram. “I’m sure I’m still anxious and stressed in a lot of ways, but my perception of it is that I feel very relaxed and happy and calm.”

It seems as though Altman now takes his health seriously. In a 2018 blog post, he wrote that he avoids eating sugary and extra-spicy foods and lifts heavy weights three times a week. When he can’t sleep, he takes a “low dose of sleeping pills” or a “very low dose of cannabis.” He even said he takes metformin, a diabetes drug, as part of his anti-aging routine.

Altman didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment through OpenAI. Neither did Sivo, who Insider contacted through a Twitter DM.



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