Why Does Sam Altman Like Poland for OpenAI?

Poland's central location and low cost of living make it an attractive option for burgeoning tech.

Sam Altman smiles in behind a name plate.
Sam Altman jetted off on his world tour after testifying in Congress on May 16. Getty Images

Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, is exploring locations in Europe for a new office. “Poland would be an interesting place,” he told Bloomberg.

The new branch would focus on research and engineering, Altman said, emphasizing it would not be a regulatory office, despite the harsh legal environment OpenAI is facing in Europe.

OpenAI is on shaky territory in Europe. In the background of Altman’s office hunt, Italy issued a temporary ban on ChatGPT earlier this year because it lacked age verification and the legal basis to collect personal data. E.U. lawmakers are creating a set of landmark rules to govern artificial intelligence, which could hurt OpenAI’s business. The company could pull its operations out of the E.U. if it can’t comply with the laws, Altman said at an event in London yesterday (May 24). The current draft of rules would be “over-regulating,” Altman told Reuters.

While in Poland, Altman met with Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister. They discussed how Polish companies could participate in AI developments, the impact of AI on the economy and the issues with regulation, according to Piotr Müller, a politician and government spokesperson.

Altman also met with the heads of government in Spain, France and the U.K., according to TechCrunch.

During May and June, Altman is scheduled to visit more than a dozen cities across the world, in part to find a new venue for his San Francisco-based company. He has spent the last week in Europe—in Madrid, London, Paris and Warsaw, Poland. Before that, he landed in Toronto, Rio De Janeiro and Lagos. He also has plans to visit Dubai, New Delhi, Singapore and Tokyo. 

Why Poland?

Altman’s interest in Poland is unconventional but not totally out of left field. A handful of tech companies have research and development centers in Poland, including Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), IBM and Microsoft (MSFT). Visa is investing in the country by building a 1,500-person technology and product hub, which it announced on May 23. In recent years, the country has also produced a slew of startups with valuations of over $1 billion, including Allegro, an e-commerce platform, and InPost, a logistics and mailing company.

Poland has one of the lowest labor costs in Europe, far below those of Ireland, Germany and France, according to E.U. data. It is centrally located in Europe and receives a wealth of E.U. funds.

While it might not have the pizzazz or gross domestic product (GDP) of European giants like Germany and the U.K., its economy has an “impressive history of growth” beginning in the 1990s, according to a McKinsey & Company report. In 1991, Poland held its first democratic election since the 1920s, transitioning the country away from communism and towards capitalism. During the 2008 financial crisis, Poland was the only E.U. country to avoid a recession. It now has the sixth-highest GDP of all 27 E.U. countries and the fifth-highest population, with 37.8 million people.

Altman could also be interested in establishing his company in an E.U. country with lawmakers that can shape future AI legislation. While the U.K. has a vibrant tech sphere—third in the world behind the U.S. and China—it is no longer in the E.U.

Why Does Sam Altman Like Poland for OpenAI?