Ex-Stability AI leader says being a CEO sucks: 'Elon was right'

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Ex-Stability AI leader says being a CEO sucks: 'Elon was right'
Emad Mostaque said about being a CEO, "it is like looking into the abyss and chewing glass."z_wei/Getty
  • Since stepping down, Stability AI's former CEO has been vocal about not liking the job.
  • Emad Mostaque says he agrees with Elon Musk that being a CEO is like "looking into the abyss and chewing glass."
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Stability AI's former leader Emad Mostaque thinks Elon Musk was right about one thing: being a CEO isn't fun.

Mostaque stepped down in March as CEO of Stability AI, the company behind the popular AI image generator Stable Diffusion. He's been talking about the job's demands since stepping down as his management of Stability AI has been the topic of multiple reports critical of his leadership in the last week.

When asked about his departure, Mostaque told New York Times reporter Kevin Roose that "being a CEO sucks." Roose detailed some of the text conversation on his podcast, "Hard Fork."

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"Elon was right. It is like looking into the abyss and chewing glass," Mostaque said in a text to Roose, according to the reporter. "I am not a normal person. It is impossible for me to do distributed instability and I don't like being a CEO."

Elon Musk doesn't like being a CEO either

Mostaque texts reference a series of comments Elon Musk has made over the years about disliking his role as a CEO.

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Musk said in a Lex Fridman podcast in 2022 that he had a friend who said "starting a company is like staring into the abyss and eating glass." Musk said there was "some truth to that."

The tech CEO said staring into the abyss represents the constant threat of extermination companies face, and eating glass is working on problems the company needs you to work on, rather than what you want to do.

Musk also posted on X, formerly Twitter, in 2022 that he "never wanted to be CEO – just wanted to work on product/technology."

"Running companies hurts my heart, but I don't see any other way to bring technology & design to fruition," Musk added.

He also told a Delaware Court in 2023 that he "tried very hard not to be the CEO of Tesla."

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"I rather hate it, and I would much prefer to spend my time on design and engineering, which is what intrinsically I like doing," the Tesla CEO said.

Mostaque lets out his true feelings about being a CEO

Since he departed from Stability, Mostaque has posted similar sentiments on his public profiles about how difficult the job can be.

In an interview with tech podcaster Peter Diamandis on Friday, he said he's particularly skilled at helping creatives, developers, and researchers reach their potential in designing systems. But he said he shouldn't deal with HR, operations, and business developments.

He said in a post on X on Friday that he "was a bit of a weird CEO that folks didn't like," and he struggled to communicate.

The former Stability CEO also said he has Asperger's and ADHD in Reddit threads addressing his tenure as CEO, which he said made the role more difficult for him.

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Mostaque faces reports of mismanagement during his time as CEO

While Stability started as one of the hottest AI startups in the space, the company is now reportedly facing financial challenges, a copyright lawsuit, and significant turnover in high-level positions.

Recent reports allege that Mostaque's mismanagement may be to blame for some of the company's struggles.

Former leaders and employees at the company referred to Mostaque's tenure as sometimes "chaotic" and said the company is "now a shell of itself," Bloomberg reported. A Stability spokesperson told Bloomberg in a statement at the time that it's focused on "commercializing our world-leading technology and providing our partners across the creative industries with AI operating systems and tools."

Forbes also reported unpaid bills and a disastrous meeting with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, which Mostaque denied.

The former Stability CEO responded to the Forbes piece on X and said it was "mostly lies and obfuscations," and that he didn't meet with Jensen last year. Business Insider has reached out to Forbes for any additional comment on Mostaque's response.

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The former CEO posted additional responses on X and Reddit talking about what he felt the article got right, like the company's revenue ramp — and allegations that he wasn't a good leader.

"Final accusation is I am a bad leader which I think can be seen as reasonable," Mostaque said. "Being a CEO sucks and I did it because I had to and focused on bringing the company to where it could stand free, but my ADHD and Asperger's do get in the way."

Stability AI declined to comment on Mosaque's comments about being a CEO.

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