Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg have personally recruited AI staffers as talent war heats up

Tech companies are pulling out all the stops to hire top-tier talent in the field of artificial intelligence — so much so that billionaire moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin are personally reaching out to candidates in hopes of convincing them to work for their firms.

Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Meta Platforms Inc, has sent personally written notes to AI researchers at DeepMind, the lab owned by tech rival Google, in hopes of recruiting them to join Facebook’s parent company, according to a report in The Information.

Brin, the fellow billionaire who made his fortune as co-founder of search engine Google, personally called a company employee who was about to leave for OpenAI and offered them a pay bump and other perks to persuade them to stay, tech news site reported.

It is unclear when the call was made. The Post has sought comment from Brin and Zuckerberg.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has personally written notes to AI researchers at rival Google DeepMind in hopes of convincing them to jump ship, according to a report. AP
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has personally written notes to AI researchers at rival Google DeepMind in hopes of convincing them to jump ship, according to a report. AP

Meta is looking to lure AI talent by extending job offers without interviewing the candidates and relaxing longstanding company policy to not raise the salary of an in-house employee who threatens to leave for a competitor, according to the report.

Zuckerberg’s personal outreach, which is considered rare when considering the rank of the employee, has borne fruit.

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, reportedly called a company employee and pledged to give them a pay raise and other benefits just to ensure that they stay at the company, it was reported. Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, reportedly called a company employee and pledged to give them a pay raise and other benefits just to ensure that they stay at the company, it was reported. Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize

Last week, Michal Valko, a senior engineer at DeepMind, announced that he was defecting to Meta to take up a role as principal engineer at the company’s AI-powered large language model LlaMA.

In a social media post, Valko credited Zuckerberg’s pitch, saying he owed the Facebook founder “massive thanks for a very personal involvement.”

In the X post, Valko even referred to the billionaire CEO by his first name, “Mark.”

Meta is considered a Silicon Valley laggard when it comes to tech companies’ salary packages for coveted AI researchers.

While ChatGPT-maker OpenAI pays its prized recruits a reported compensation package ranging from $5 million to $10 million mostly in the form of stock, Zuckerberg’s shop is offering a relatively measly $1 million to $2 million annual wage, according to The Information.

A Wall Street Journal report cited data from Levels.fyi which found that the median compensation of 344 machine learning and AI engineers at Meta was nearly $400,000 a year including bonus and equity.

OpenAI, maker of popular AI bot ChatGPT, pays top AI engineers between $5 million and $10 million in base pay and stock, it was reported. REUTERS
OpenAI, maker of popular AI bot ChatGPT, pays top AI engineers between $5 million and $10 million in base pay and stock, it was reported. REUTERS

While tech companies are laying off people in non-AI divisions, they are ramping up offers to engineers who can help them develop the know-how behind chat bots and language models.

Some firms are even extending seven-figure annual pay packages to members of entire engineering teams in hopes of getting them to defect in unison, according to the Journal.

The median salary for six candidates who were weighing job offers from OpenAI was $925,000 including bonus and equity.

Google DeepMind is one of several AI shops that are competing for top-tier AI talent. AP
Google DeepMind is one of several AI shops that are competing for top-tier AI talent. AP

Justin Kinsey, the president of a chip-recruiting company, said he recently convinced an AI engineering manager making more than $1 million in bonuses and stock to leave Microsoft in favor of a startup that was paying him $100,000 less in base salary.

Kinsey told the Journal that the engineering manager received stock options that he anticipates will one day be worth $40 million.