A Former OpenAI Engineer Poached by Elon Musk’s xAI Has Returned to OpenAI

After less than a year at xAI, one of the startup's original employees has returned to OpenAI.

Man in black suit sits on panel
Elon Musk launched xAI last summer. Marc Plasecki/Getty Images

Elon Musk entered the A.I. race wholeheartedly last summer when he launched the startup xAI and hired its dozen founding members from competing tech companies like OpenAI, Google (GOOGL), DeepMind and Microsoft (MSFT). Now, one of xAI’s original employees has returned to rival OpenAI after only 11 months with Musk’s company, as first reported by Fortune. Kyle Kosic, who had worked at OpenAI for two years before joining xAI in May 2023, left the Musk-led startup in April and returned to OpenAI the following month as a member of its technical staff according to his LinkedIn profile. The rest of xAI’s original team members appear to have remained with the company, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

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Musk has positioned xAI as an A.I. company that will prioritize safety over profit. A co-founder of OpenAI and former member of its board of directors, Musk has publicly severed ties with the company in recent years over disagreements regarding its mission and in March filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman that has since been withdrawn.

xAI’s investor presentations described Kosic as a founding xAI member with the title of a full-stack reliability engineer and data scientist working on automation, scalability and distributed computing, according to Fortune. Before joining xAI last year, Kosic previously worked as a software engineer at OnScale and a quantitative analyst at Lucena Research.

In an attempt to sway investors, xAI’s slide decks also reportedly emphasized its close ties to Musk’s various other companies, referred to as “the Muskonomy.” In addition to using data from X for training, for example, the startup will be able to utilize video data from Tesla (TSLA) and align with human safety through a Neuralink partnership. It isn’t just data that is being shared across the companies, as xAI has additionally recruited former Tesla employees to the startup.

Grok 2 and Grok 3 are coming later this year

xAI’s sole product thus far is the chatbot Grok, which was released in November as a more humorous competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Grok is currently available to subscribers to X premium and X premium+. Grok 2, the next generation of the chatbot, will be released in August, said Musk today (July 1) in an X post, adding that Grok 3 will be unveiled by the end of the year.


The startup was most recently valued at $24 billion after raising $6 billion earlier this year. Last month, it announced plans to begin building a data center in Memphis, Tenn. that will enhance its computing capacity to train xAI models.

xAI’s current employee headcount measures at 97, according to Pitchbook—a figure that pales in comparison to the 1,200 employees at OpenAI. The startup’s website indicates it currently has 22 open roles ranging from A.I. tutors to security operations leads. Musk, who has previously described A.I. recruitment as “the craziest talent war I’ve ever seen,” is also actively hiring for several A.I. engineer and researcher positions that offer a pay range of $180,000 to $440,000. In race to hire A.I. employees, other tech companies have reportedly provided salaries that double the top end of xAI’s range, with some offering million-dollar annual compensation packages.

A Former OpenAI Engineer Poached by Elon Musk’s xAI Has Returned to OpenAI