OpenAI Acquires Team behind Multi, formerly Remotion, Startup Focused on Screensharing and Collaboration

OpenAI is on an acquisition spree: Last week, the estimated $90-billion valued company behind ChatGPT announced it had acquired Rockset, a small startup focused on retrieval augmented generation (RAG) and related tech for allowing generative AI models to access selected data sources.

Today, sources close to OpenAI have confirmed to VentureBeat it has acquired Multi, formerly Remotion, a five-person startup based in New York City that focuses on screenshare and collaboration technologies for workers using Mac computers. That makes three publicly known acquisitions so far to date, by our count, following one of Global Illumination, a web-based MMORPG maker, last year.

No details were provided on the terms of the deal — how much OpenAI paid, if any, and what portion was cash vs. stock, etc.

In addition, OpenAI declined to provide further details to VentureBeat about the deal or what the Multi team and its tech will be doing for OpenAI.

Joining the ChatGPT for desktop computers app team

Multi’s co-founder and CEO Alexander Embiricos posted on his X account today stating specifically that he (and presumably the entire Multi team) has joined OpenAI’s “ChatGPT desktop team,” the unit at the company responsible for building the ChatGPT for Mac desktop app that was unveiled back in May 2024.

So much to say, but what matters most? Talking to users and shipping. With that in mind…
I couldn’t be more excited to have joined the ChatGPT desktop team. Send me your feedback and bug reports. DMs open!

— Alexander Embiricos (@embirico) June 24, 2024

Multi broke the news first to its users and followers in a blog post, writing:

Recently, we’ve been increasingly asking ourselves how we should work with computers. Not on or using computers, but truly with computers. With AI. We believe it’s one of the most important product questions of our time.

And so, we’re beyond excited to share that Multi is joining OpenAI!

The news has users on X speculating that OpenAI will use Multi to allow its AI models such as GPT-4o to “take over” a user’s computer and perform actions on their behalf based on text or voice prompts. So you could say something like “ChatGPT, create a spreadsheet of my latest hours and send it to my manager” and it would try to do this.

OpenAI just acquired this startup that basically lets someone remotely control your computer…
i think we can all guess how this might fit in with ChatGPT desktop… ????

— andrew gao (@itsandrewgao) June 24, 2024

Based on what I’ve learned about Multi (see final section of this article below) and zero insider knowledge, I think it is at least as likely that OpenAI will seek to use the acquisition as a means of souping up and adding features to its ChatGPT Team and Enterprise subscription plans, as those are already more focused on providing tech for teams to help all the individuals on them work together.

The current Multi app is being sunsetted in 1 month and all user data deleted

However, Multi also broke the news that it is “sunsetting” the current version of its software and will end support for it in one month: on July 24, 2024, as well as delete all user data. Egads!

Multi states in a short FAQ in its blog post that users should go ahead and export their data before that time, using the “Export Session Notes” setting under the URL:

It is also opening the door to users asking for extensions to the deletion date of July 24, 2024 for their individual or company accounts, if they email Embiricos himself directly at [email protected]. Multi also says its team members can help recommend alternatives through the same email address.

What Multi did

Founded originally under the name Remotion in 2019, Multi was initially focused on building a kind of Zoom-style videoconferencing and desktop PC screensharing application for the COVID-19 pandemic era.

The company raised $13 million collectively in its Series A and seed rounds from Graylock and First Round, as TechCrunch reported.

In debuted its initial application in October 2020 for macOS and as Fast Company described it at the time, the app was a “lighter-weight” video conferencing alternative to Zoom or Microsoft Teams, with a dock of contacts appearing off to the side rather than in a full screen or even tiled view, and a persistent display of your frequent contacts/team members and status indicators showing if they were open to a quick 1×1 or group chat.

Last summer, the company renamed itself to Multi as part of a strategic “refocus on helping technical teams build together, faster,” as opposed to Remotion’s focus on primarily remote teams, showing the company was shifting alongside the market away from purely remote work.

As the company stated in a blog post at that time: “With this new product focus, we’re building tools that all technical teams can use to collaborate better, whether they’re right next to each other or on different continents…Our long-term goal is to create a multiplayer layer across all the tools you work in, be they web-based or native. It should feel as though your entire operating system was upgraded for teamwork.”

At that point, the app Multi was redesigned to emphasize screenshare of application windows on multiple desktop computers, allowing team members to operate in common, shared views across their desktop computers, draw and annotate over the apps they had open on their desktops, and even blend their distinct app views together into one shared view.

In another blog post, Multi stated that “You can work in teammates’ apps like Xcode and Terminal as though they’re open on your computer.”

The vision at this point was that Multi “unwraps the work from its container” be it an app or website.

A few months ago, Multi launched an iOS beta app and also began adding large language model (LLM)-powered summaries for shared work sessions and video calls between team members.

Intriguingly, at the time, the company stated “chatbots are not the future” and linked to a blog post by Github researcher Amelia Wattenberger explaining reasons why the current, largely bare bones chat interfaces for LLMs such as ChatGPT did not provide enough context or cues for how the user should interact with them, nor enough information on what the AI was doing.

Now, the entire Multi team is joining the LLM provider that is perhaps most associated with a chatbot interface, OpenAI and ChatGPT, and very specifically, working on its chatbot for desktop computers. An interesting but perhaps inspiring about-face, if the Multi team is able to bring more of its vision to the ChatGPT team.


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