OpenAI expands to Japan with new office launch

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye
A photo taken on October 4, 2023 in Manta, near Turin, shows a smartphone and a laptop displaying the logos of the artificial intelligence OpenAI research laboratory and ChatGPT robot. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

The artificial intelligence startup, OpenAI, moved into the Japanese market on Monday with the inauguration of its inaugural Asia office in Tokyo, marking a pivotal moment for the company’s global expansion efforts.

In a video message, CEO Sam Altman expressed optimism about forging enduring partnerships with the people of Japan, government officials, businesses, and research institutions.

The company, which garnered significant attention following the release of its ChatGPT generative AI chatbot in late 2022, aims to diversify its revenue streams on a global scale.

Altman, along with Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap, has been actively engaging with executives from numerous Fortune 500 companies in the United States and Britain this month to present business opportunities, as reported by Reuters.

Altman had previously expressed interest in establishing a presence in Japan following discussions with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. This move adds to OpenAI’s existing offices in London and Dublin, reflecting the company’s strategic approach to international expansion.

Japan, keen to leverage AI technology to compete with the growing influence of China, expedite the transition to digital services, and address burgeoning labor shortages, is seen as a promising market for OpenAI. Lightcap emphasized the company’s anticipation of substantial contributions from Japan over time, citing a backlog of demand, although specific details were not disclosed.

Highlighting its commitment to the Japanese market, OpenAI announced the development of a custom model tailored for the Japanese language. Tadao Nagasaki, formerly the president of Amazon Web Services in Japan, has been appointed to lead the Japan business operations.

Despite perceptions of Japan as trailing in technology adoption, local companies such as telecommunications giants SoftBank and NTT are investing significantly in large language models, signaling a growing interest in AI applications. Noteworthy among OpenAI’s clientele in Japan are automotive titan Toyota Motor, manufacturing stalwart Daikin Industries, and various local government entities.

The burgeoning interest in AI technology extends beyond OpenAI, as evidenced by Microsoft’s recent announcement of a $2.9 billion investment over two years in cloud and AI infrastructure in Japan. This move reflects a broader trend of substantial investments by leading U.S. tech companies in AI development and infrastructure worldwide.

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