OpenAI comes to Asia with new office in Tokyo

Published April 15, 2024
Journalists are silhouetted at OpenAI’s press conference about the opening of its first Asia office in Tokyo, Japan April 15, 2024.— Reuters
Journalists are silhouetted at OpenAI’s press conference about the opening of its first Asia office in Tokyo, Japan April 15, 2024.— Reuters

ChatGPT creator OpenAI opened a new office in Tokyo on Monday, the first Asian outpost for the groundbreaking tech company as it aims to ramp up its global expansion.

Thanks to the stratospheric success of its generative tools that can create text, images and even video, OpenAI has become a leader in the artificial intelligence revolution and one of the most significant tech companies in the world.

The Japan office is the latest part of the Microsoft-backed firm’s international push, having already set up bases in London and Dublin.

“We’re excited to be in Japan which has a rich history of people and technology coming together to do more,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said in a statement.

“We believe AI will accelerate work by empowering people to be more creative and productive, while also delivering broad value to current and new industries that have yet to be imagined.”

OpenAI said its Japan office would bring it closer to enterprise clients — including global auto leader Toyota, tech conglomerate Rakuten and industrial giant Daikin — that are using its products “to automate complex business processes”.

“We chose Tokyo as our first Asian office for its global leadership in technology, culture of service, and a community that embraces innovation,” the company added.

OpenAI also announced a new Japanese-language version of ChatGPT on Monday, and hailed the country as a “key global voice on AI policy”, offering potential solutions to issues such as labour shortages.

The company said its Japan office would also help “accelerate the efforts of local governments, such as Yokosuka City” in their drive to improve the efficiency of public services.

The Tokyo ‘buzz’

The San Francisco-based firm has been reportedly in discussions with hundreds of companies as it looks to expand revenue sources.

OpenAI’s chief operating officer Brad Lightcap told Bloomberg in an interview published this month that the firm has seen huge demand for its corporate version of ChatGPT.

“We have a very global base of demand,” he said in the interview. “So we want to show up where our customers are. We feel a lot of pull from places like Japan and Asia broadly.”

OpenAI, reportedly valued at $80 billion or more earlier this year, is the latest major tech firm to invest in Japan.

Microsoft, one of OpenAI’s biggest investors, last week announced a separate $2.9bn investment to provide Japan with the powerful graphics processing units crucial for running AI apps, and to train three million Japanese workers in AI skills.

Amazon Web Services is spending $14bn to expand its cloud infrastructure in Japan, while Google has launched a regional cybersecurity hub in the country.

Experts say geopolitical tensions have made Japan an increasingly attractive partner for tech firms compared to China, in addition to advantages such as supportive policies and a highly educated talent pool.

“What happens in Tokyo can create a buzz,” Hideaki Yokota, vice president of the MM Research Institute, told AFP. “A base in Tokyo should help (OpenAI) attract much young talent.”

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