Jensen Huang, the businessman who washed dishes before leading Nvidia, the new tech giant bigger than Google, Facebook and Amazon

Jensen Huang moved to the United States when he was 9 years old and did not speak English.  (BBC)

Jensen Huang moved to the United States when he was 9 years old and did not speak English. (BBC)

In the name of Nvidia, the company founded by Jensen Huang in 1993, three revealing elements are combined: nv, for next darshan (a vision of what is to come); VID, a reference to video – since the company started by betting on the development of graphics cards for computers -; but also words jealousyWhich is used in Latin to refer to – you guessed it – jealousy.

And, given this technology company’s amazing results over the past year, it’s likely that that’s exactly what both the company and its founder have awakened in their competitors.

Between March 2023 and March 2024, the value of Nvidia shares increased from US$264 to US$886, bringing its total valuation above US$2 trillion and Making it the third most valuable publicly traded company in the world., Leaving behind Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Meta, And is behind only Microsoft and Apple.

The rapid rise in value of Nvidia is explained by the uproar around artificial intelligence and the fact that This company is the supplier of more than 70% of the chips that make this technology possible.

But these, in turn, would not have existed if it were not for the vision of Huang, who chose this market when it did not yet exist and, thus, contributed to making it a reality.

Today, as the magazine recently said wired, Huang is considered “the man of the times, of the year and perhaps of the decade”; While investment analyst Jim Cramer of the American network CNBC has said that the Nvidia founder surpasses Elon Musk as a visionary.

However, Huang’s story has not been without hardships, risks, and hard work, including many hours spent washing toilets and waiting tables as a waiter.

an immigrant child in a reformatory

Nvidia Microchips is leading the AI ​​revolution.  (BBC)Nvidia Microchips is leading the AI ​​revolution.  (BBC)

Nvidia Microchips is leading the AI ​​revolution. (BBC)

Born in Taipei in 1963, Huang spent part of his childhood in Taiwan and Thailand, until his parents decided to send him and his brother to the United States.

The boy – who did not speak English – was taken in by his uncles, who were recent immigrants, who sent him to study at the Oneida Baptist Institute in Kentucky, which at that time was more of a reformatory than a regular school. Was similar to.

According to a newsletter published by that school in 2016, the two brothers were allowed to live, eat and work at the institution – which then only offered high school classes – while they attended classes at Oneida Elementary School. Were.

Little Jensen’s assigned job was to clean the bathroom.,

The businessman said in an interview with NPR in 2012, “The kids were really tough. They all had knives in their pockets and when fights happened, it was not good. The kids got hurt.”

Despite the difficulties, Huang has always said that it was a great experience and that he enjoyed his time there.

In fact, in 2016, he and his wife Lori donated US$2 million for the construction of a building with classrooms and dormitories for girls at that educational center.

finding luck

Nvidia achieved its first success in the market thanks to the development of graphics chips that revolutionized the world of video games.  (BBC)Nvidia achieved its first success in the market thanks to the development of graphics chips that revolutionized the world of video games.  (BBC)

Nvidia achieved its first success in the market thanks to the development of graphics chips that revolutionized the world of video games. (BBC)

A few years later, when the boys moved to the United States they moved to Oregon to join their parents.

Huang attended Oregon State University to study electrical engineering.

He says it was here that he opened his eyes to “the magic behind” computers and it was here that “luck” led him to meet his wife, Lori, who was his laboratory practice partner.

She was one of three girls who belonged to a class of 80 students.

In a speech he gave to students at that university in 2013, Huang highlighted how he also accidentally met Nvidia’s two co-founders, Chris Malachowski and Curtis Priem.

“What I’m pretty much saying is that contingency is very important for success,” he said.

The three co-founders of Nvidia came up with the idea of ​​creating the company while having breakfast at the Denny’s fast food chain in San Jose (California).

A plaque was installed there commemorating the fact that in 2023, the technology company managed to get listed for the first time at US$1 billion.

Huang has a long relationship with Denny’s, as it was at one of that chain’s stores in Portland where he got his first job at the age of 15, washing dishes, cleaning tables and working as a waiter.

“Excellent job option. I highly recommend everyone to start their first job in the restaurant business, it teaches you humility and hard work.” said Huang, who often boasted about how good he was at these tasks.

“My first job before becoming CEO was washing dishes, and I did it very well,” he said in a recent talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The businessman has said that working at Denny’s helped him overcome his extreme shyness.

“I was afraid to talk to people,” he said. the new York Times,

betting on the unknown

Nvidia chips are used by many other big technology companies to develop their AI programs.  (BBC)Nvidia chips are used by many other big technology companies to develop their AI programs.  (BBC)

Nvidia chips are used by many other big technology companies to develop their AI programs. (BBC)

Huang graduated as an engineer in 1984. “A perfect year to graduate,” he said, because it was the same year that the personal computer era began with the release of the first Mac.

He then earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University, which took him eight years to complete.

In parallel, he was working in various roles at technology companies such as Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and LSI Logic, which he left shortly before founding Nvidia.

As they said in a speech they gave at Oregon State University in 2013, before creating that company, the three founders asked themselves three questions: Is this work something we would “really love to do”? Is this workable? And is it “really hard” to do this?

“Today I ask myself the same three questions all the time. Because You shouldn’t do anything you don’t like. And you should only work on things that matter in your life.“, They said.

Part of their work philosophy is based on betting on doing these important things even when there is no clearly established market.

“What motivates us is not the size of the market, but the importance of the work, because Importance of work is an early indicator of the future market” he said at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

There he also recommended constantly returning to the basic principles because – he assured – this is something that creates many opportunities.

Applying the ideas of this style, Huang has created a company with a fairly horizontal structure in which not only are there more than 40 people reporting directly to him, but in which he also encourages transversal communication from the bottom up.

It’s a way, as he explained, to facilitate the flow of ideas and information, as well as stay updated on his team’s best ideas.

,Leading, motivating, empowering and supporting others to achieve great things is why a management team exists.To serve everyone else who works at the company,” he said in his talk at Stanford.

And looking at Nvidia’s results, it’s a philosophy that works.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped the company from going through tough times.

The first of them happened very soon, when during its first two years its price fell by 90%, after finding technological solutions to overcome the high price of DRAM memory.

This made the invested effort worthless and opened the door for dozens of other companies to compete in the race to develop the best graphics chips.

Nvidia managed to redirect its efforts and in 1999 launched the graphics processing unit (GPU), a type of microprocessor that redefined computer games.

From there, the company continued to work on the development of GPU-accelerated computing, a computing model that makes use of massively parallel graphics processors and that allows to accelerate the work of programs that require great computing power. is required, such as Data analysis, simulation, visualization and artificial intelligence.

Bets on the latter have caused the price of Nvidia shares to skyrocket and, with them, Huang’s personal fortune, which has reached US$79 billion, which – according to the magazine forbes– making him the 18th richest man in the world.

And this may increase even further due to Nvidia’s quasi-monopoly position with the production of these superchips, the demand for which is expected to increase in the near future.

As a Wall Street analyst quoted by the magazine the new Yorker, “There is a war going on in the field of artificial intelligence and Nvidia is the only weapon vendor.”

It looks like Jensen Huang’s fortunes may continue to improve.

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