Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s Wildest Insights From a New Profile

  • Bullishness on Nvidia has gripped Wall Street in 2023, and the stock is the top performer in the S&P 500 this year.
  • CEO Jensen Huang has bet his company’s fortunes on AI long before anyone was thinking about the technology.
  • Here are the six most interesting tidbits about Huang and his company from a new profile. 

Nvidia woke investors up earlier this year to the fact that artificial intelligence is going to be a very big deal — and a very big business.

Shares of Nvidia have surged 226% year-to-date, adding about $850 billion to its market value and making it the best performing stock in the S&P 500 in 2023.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has been called a visionary for betting his company on artificial intelligence years before the technology entered the mainstream. In a new profile by the New Yorker, Huang revealed a slew of details about himself and his company. 

Here are the six most interesting tidbits about Huang and Nvidia, according to the recent profile.

1. Nvidia’s corporate motto is that it’s only 30 days from going out of business

Nvidia almost went out of business in 1996. The company had to lay off half of its staff and it was just a few weeks away from missing payroll. Huang said the company had a 50-50 chance of saving the business with the upcoming launch of its Riva 128 graphics chip.

The chip was a success, but the desperation experienced in 1996 fueled what has become the company’s unofficial corporate motto.

“Huang encouraged his employees to continue shipping products with a sense of desperation, and for years to come he opened staff presentations with the words ‘Our company is thirty days from going out of business,” The New Yorker wrote.

2. Nvidia embraces failure and puts it on full display

Jensen Huang has a radical belief that “failure must be shared,” he told The New Yorker. And that’s exactly what the company does.

After the launch of a faulty graphics chip in the early 2000’s, instead of firing the product managers, Huang had them give a presentation to hundreds of employees about all of the decisions the team made leading up to launch of the failed product. 

The chip had a loud, overactive fan, and Nvidia went as far to distribute a satirical video to the press in which the card was repurposed as a leaf blower.

3. Jensen Huang writes hundreds of e-mails every day

Nvidia has an agile corporate structure, which means Huang participates in all facets of the business. That results in Huang responding to hundreds of e-mails every single day, though each e-mail is usually only a few words long. 

“One executive compared the e-mails to haiku, another to ransom notes,” The New Yorker wrote. 

4. Jensen Huang does not think AI is a threat to humanity

There’s a lot of worry in the AI community that one day, the technology could become powerful enough to overtake and replace its creators. Those concerns are shared by tech icons like Elon Musk, and speculation suggests that those fears played a part in the OpenAI management fiasco earlier this month.

But Huang simply is not concerned about a doomsday scenario related to AI.

When asked if AI might someday kill somebody, one Nvidia executive said, “Eh, electricity kills people every year.”

Another question posed was whether AI might become self-aware one day, but Huang wasn’t buying it.

“In order for you to be a creature, you have to be conscious. You have to have some knowledge of self, right? I don’t know where that could happen,” Huang said.  

5. Huang encourages employees to develop products for “zero-billion-dollar markets”

A bulk of Nvidia’s success can be chalked up to the company skating to where the puck is going, years in advance. And Huang encourages that level of thinking as its employees develop new products.

Huang calls it the “zero-billion-dollar market.” These exploratory products might not have competitors or even potential customers today, but that could change years down the road. 

Huang compared this idea of thinking to the movie “Field of Dreams”, in which the main character builds a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, then waits for players and fans to come

6. Huang’s big gamble on the future is the Omniverse

Huang took big risks over the past few decades, betting his company could develop technology for a market that didn’t yet exist.

When asked what Nvidia might be doing today that mirrors the “zero-billion-dollar” bets the company took in years past, Huang responded with a single word: “Omniverse.”

Huang said the Omniverse is an “industrial metaverse” that will be able to simulate the real world at an incredibly fine level of detail. The Omniverse could ultimately enable humans to safely train robots and self-driving cars in a digital world.

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