100 Best Companies Snapshot: Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Working together to create something meaningful

Committed to contributing to humanity through high-impact artificial intelligence research and engineering, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2, often finds itself competing for talent with companies such as Google and Amazon. So it designed its own long-term incentive program, which CEO Oren Etzioni calls “AI2 stock.” “Our stock isn’t traded on the NASDAQ because we aren’t a public company,” he explains. “Instead, we tie the components of the stock to our success on our annual goals. And so everyone is aligned around different teams and we’re all cheering each other on to achieve our goals, not just because we like each other but [also] because it creates this incentive alignment.”

A former University of Washington professor, Etzioni has built a culture that combines the best of startups and academia, emphasizing goals, growth, openness and continued education. Walls are covered with scribbled notes (some including pleas like “Do not erase!”), and the organization facilitates the movement of team members across projects in alignment with one of its guiding mantras: Life is too short to work on projects that you aren’t incredibly excited about. “To have a successful work environment,” Etzioni asserts, “you have to give people meaningful work.” 

Related Content

Companies across the region ramp up efforts for business, social reasons

Companies across the region ramp up efforts for business, social reasons

The bad news is Washington still ranked seventh among the states in total initial unemployment claims filed during the peak layoff week in March

Vice President of Finance and Operations Barnett Silver offers advice on lessons learned

The federally mandated filings announcing the layoffs are only the tip of the iceberg in the job-loss devastation caused by the coronavirus crisis