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OpenAI announced that it has onboarded Peter Deng as the VP of consumer product, where he will be leading the company’s consumer product efforts, alongside driving design and engineering teams behind ChatGPT with the goal of making AI accessible to all.
“We’re at the crossroads of a new era in computing, and there is so much to be built,” said Deng. He believes that we have barely scratched the surface in building productivity and creative tools that delight users.
Prior to joining OpenAI, Deng was the chief product officer at cloud collaboration platform Airtable. He was responsible for leading the company’s product strategy and execution, where he helped the company scale significantly, alongside raising funding at a $11 billion valuation.
Deng has worked for 18 years as a product lead and manager, in most of the major tech companies like Google, Instagram, Facebook (now Meta), Uber to name a few.
After graduating from Stanford with a Master’s in Arts (MA) in media studies and communications, he began his career at Google in 2006. This was a period of large changes; Google went public in 2004, alongside its acquisition of Youtube (2006) and DoubleClick (2007), and Deng speaks of gaining valuable insights into product development and strategy.
It was surely a wild time to be working at Google. But, it is even crazier now, given all the hype around OpenAI, and the sky-high expectations from the consumers.
When ChatGPT was launched in November last year, it literally broke the AI hype cycle, where within three months, the chatbot scaled to 10 million users within three months. Nothing like seen before in the history of product adoption. In contrast, Instagram took almost a year to reach the same milestone.
“ChatGPT surprised us a little bit,” said Altman, adding that he thought it would have been the 10th fastest growing product in history, and not the number one.
“Someone said to me over the weekend, you shipped an AGI and I somehow, like, am just going about my daily life and I’m not that impressed,” quipped Sam Altman, in an interview with Lex Fridman, with reference to how users are not impressed post-ChatGPT era.
Clearly, OpenAI is struggling to create its next big breakthrough, or a product miracle once again, thanks to ChatGPT’s wild success. That explains why the company hired Deng to get them out of the ChatGPT hangover.
Builder Deng Creates Magic
Deng’s contribution to consumer products has been impeccable, and has shaped the company he’s previously worked in to scale products to the next level. “I have always found myself to be a bit of a productivity geek, and a builder,” said Deng.
In 2007, Deng joined Facebook at a nascent stage. He played a vital role in various products, including Chat, Events, Groups, and the iconic News Feed. His contributions spanned the redesign of the News Feed for real-time updates, the introduction of structured data collection for user profiles, and the transformation of Groups into vibrant collaborative spaces. Deng’s work solidified Facebook’s position as a leading social network, connecting billions of people worldwide.
Deng’s ability to navigate diverse product landscapes led him to assume pivotal roles at other tech giants. In 2013, he took on the position of Head of Product at Instagram when the platform was still relatively small. He led the team at Instagram and drove exponential growth, reaching hundreds of millions of users.
Aggressively consumer centric, Deng joined Uber In 2017 as head of Rider. Then present in around 700 cities, he focused on solving local problems instead of a blanket approach. For example, Uber launched Uber Lite, a simpler version of the app in India, saving storage and data, and estimated 1.5 million new users because of it. His focus shifted to the complexities of a real-world, two-sided marketplace. Leading consumer product efforts, Deng navigated the intricate dynamics between drivers and consumers, steering Uber through critical product transformations, and contributing to the company’s successful IPO.
A recurring pattern in his career is his work with relatively new companies and introducing game-changing features and products to it.
The Subtle Art of Mindfulness
Spending all day in meetings (only the essential ones), as a product manager Deng mentions how it is important to be living in the moment.
“Everyday I try to take a little bit of time to sit and be present with the fact that i’m planning for the future, and ironically that makes me more present then, and it makes me more present during that day,” said Deng, sharing his learning around applied mindfulness, which helps people become more compassionate and collaborate better.