February 21, 2023

Europe’s OpenAI alumni

Who are the former OpenAI employees coming to build artificial intelligence tools in Europe?

Tim Smith

5 min read

(Unsplash/Om siva Prakash)

Silicon Valley-based OpenAI is the tech company of 2023 so far. It's ChatGPT AI chatbot has sent shockwaves through nearly every part of the world.

Luckily for Europe, some machine learning experts who cut their teeth at the ground-breaking AI company are coming home to help create startups on their home turf.

These Europeans helped build tools like generative ChatGPT, image generator DALL-E and Codex, which turns natural language into code. They include product designers, machine learning engineers and AI ethicists, and they’re working at companies building everything from machine-learning-as-a-service to household robots designed to help with laundry and the washing up.


Here are Europe’s OpenAI alumni.

The founders and CEOs

Shariq Hashme — UK

Hashme is the founder of London-based Prosper Robotics, a company he launched in 2021 to build a “robot helper for your home which does laundry, dishes, cooks and more”. He tells Sifted he’s not ready to give any sneak peeks of his real-life Bicentennial Man just yet, but should have something to share within the year.

Hashme spent nine months at OpenAI as a member of technical staff working on the OpenAI Five project, teaching an AI to become an expert-level player at the online multiplayer game Dota2.

Between the two roles he was a software engineer at Silicon Valley-based AI training platform Scale AI, and previously an intern at Oculus VR.

Petar Korponaić — Finland

Korponaić founded Helsinki-based quantum computing software startup Quantastica in 2019. The company says it can help clients “transit from classical to quantum computing” and has raised a $220k pre-seed round.

At Open AI Korponaić worked as a data preparation engineer, “solving programming puzzles” to turn natural language into code. Before that he founded a company called BioComuting inc. where he worked for 10 years from 2004.

Michael Page — UK

Page is CEO at the London-based Forecasting Research Institute. The organisation, which launched in 2022, says it’s “advancing the science of forecasting for the public good”. Its research is exploring topics like the risks of artificial intelligence, biosecurity, climate, and nuclear war.

He served as a policy and ethics adviser at OpenAI from 2017-19, and later as a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Centre for Security and Emerging Technology.

Tim Salimans — Netherlands

Salimans founded Amsterdam-based AI-powered radiology diagnosis company Aidence in 2015, and still serves as a scientific adviser at the company. He’s also been a research scientist and manager at Google Brain — part of its AI division that combines machine learning research with large-scale computing — since 2018, and before that did a two-year stint at OpenAI as a research scientist and team lead.

He also founded a data services company — Algoritmica — in 2012.


Johannes Otterbach — Germany

Otterbach is VP of machine learning research at Merantix Momentum, a Berlin-based startup that describes itself as “the external machine learning department for SMEs, large corporates and research partners”. 

He spent two years at OpenAI as a member of technical staff from 2018-21, and before that a year working as a quantum engineer at quantum computing company Rigetti.


Heidy Khlaaf — UK

Based in London, Khlaaf is engineering director at New York-based cybersecurity scaleup Trail of Bits and worked as a senior systems safety engineer at OpenAI in 2021. She also sits on the World Economic Forum’s AI Certification working group and has previously held roles at Amazon and Microsoft.

Krijn Rijshouwer — Netherlands

Rijshouwer is a freelance product designer based in Amsterdam, and in 2022 worked at OpenAI, designing and building DALL-E. Before that he was a full-time product designer at website building tool Framer and journalism platform Blendle.

Matthias Plappert — Berlin

Based in Berlin, Plappert is a senior machine learning researcher at GitHub. At OpenAI he helped develop Codex.

Another of Plappert’s claims to fame is his work for OpenAI on building a robotic humanoid hand that could solve a Rubix cube, which made it onto the front page of the New York Times.

Stanislas Polu — France

Polu is an engineer at open source prompt engineering platform Dust, and previously worked at OpenAI as a research engineer for three years from 2019-22. Before that he was a software engineer at Stripe and a software engineer intern at Apple.

Lucie Holmes — UK

Based in London, Holmes is an AI consultant at IBM. She joined the company in 2021, after a two-year stint at OpenAI where she worked as an AI researcher, specialising in neuro-linguistic programming.

Previously she was an AI consultant at DeepMind from 2017-19.

The Google squad

Not all of OpenAI’s talent has gone on to work at startups or big industry in Europe. Others have gone on to the company’s closest competitor — London-founded, Alphabet-owned AI company DeepMind. As the artificial intelligence revolution continues, these profiles with both of those names on their CV will be hot property in Europe.

Thomas Anthony — UK

Anthony is a senior research scientist at DeepMind, where he’s been working for four years. He worked at OpenAI in 2018 as a member of technical staff, specialising in machine learning.

​​Quirin Niedernhuber — Germany

Niedernhuber is a senior software engineer at Google, where he’s been working since 2018. Like Hashme, he worked on the OpenAI Five project, on Dota2, as a member of technical staff. 

Avital Oliver — Netherlands

Based in Amsterdam, Oliver is a senior research engineer at Google Brain. He’s a former research intern at OpenAI and tweets regularly on generative models.

Geoffrey Irving — UK

Iriving’s been a safety researcher at DeepMind since 2019. From 2017-19 he worked in the safety team at OpenAI, and more that as a software engineer at Google Brain.


Lexin Zhou — Spain

Zhou is a contracted expert on AI Research at the European Commission and holds an AI research fellowship at the Valencian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence. He worked at OpenAI as a contracted AI expert in 2022, and before that held an AI research fellowship at the OECD.

Jakob Foerster — UK

Foerster is associate professor in machine learning at the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. Before that he worked as research scientist in Facebook’s AI division, and before that as a research intern at both DeepMind and OpenAI.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is news editor at Sifted. He covers deeptech and AI, and produces Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast . Follow him on X and LinkedIn