Jensen Huang: The Rock Star CEO of Tech

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Wearing his signature black leather jacket, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang (full name Jen Hsun Huang) is at the forefront of the AI revolution. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “He’s like Taylor Swift, but for tech.” The famous CEO founded NVIDIA at 30 and has successfully led it into the third most valuable company in the world.
NVIDIA is known for producing GPUs (graphics processing units), a type of chip designed to process graphics-related tasks like video rendering, content generation, data processing, training of machine learning models, and more. The company has produced GPUs for gaming, crypto mining, AI applications, and various computational systems. 

Since the launch of the AI chatbot ChatGPT in November 2022, NVIDIA GPUs have seen an exceptional demand by AI-savvy companies. 

Jensen Huang predicted the demand for GPUs in AI a decade ago. When the world got there, NVIDIA was the leading company to provide AI chips at scale. 

The CEO of NVIDIA is one of the most inspirational tech leaders in the world. He’s been named the ‘world’s best CEO’ by Fortune, the Economist, and Brand FinanceFortune. This article is about his childhood, his first job, how he came up with NVIDIA, and more. 

Jensen Huang’s Childhood and Education 

The NVIDIA CEO was born on February 17, 1963, in Taiwan. Like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, he is from the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964). Huang grew up in a family of many siblings. In one of his interviews with the New York Times, he mentioned that living in a large family taught him how to stay focused and manage distractions. 

When Huang was 6, his family moved to Thailand, and 3 years later to the US. At the age of 15, he started working as a dishwasher at the American restaurant chain Denny’s. Recalling the job years after, Huang said
I was a good dishwasher. I was probably Denny’s best dishwasher. I planned my work, I was organized, I was mise en place (everything in its place). And then they promoted me to a busboy.
Organized and hard-working Huang earned a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in 1984 and a master’s degree from Stanford University in 1992. As a student, he continued working part-time at Denny’s. Talking about these years, he remembers being focused, and driven, while also mentioning: 
But I was very introverted. I was incredibly shy. The one experience that pulled me out of my shell was waiting tables at Denny’s.
NVIDIA CEO told in different interviews how his experience at Denny’s taught him to handle difficult situations, find compromises for circumstances that happened all the time, face mistakes, and make the best of a state of chaos. 

Meeting His Wife at Oregon State University

While studying at Oregon State University, Jensen Huang met his future wife, Lori Morris, who was his lab partner in engineering classes. Huang and Lori got married five years later and had two children. Like Jensen, Lori Huang worked as a microchip designer in Silicon Valley. She is the co-founder and serves as the CEO of the Jensen Huang Foundation, which supports initiatives in education and healthcare. In 2022, the couple donated $50 million to their alma mater's innovation center, which was named the Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex.
 Jensen Huang with his wife Lori, daughter Madison, and son Spencer: Source:

Jensen Huang with his wife Lori, daughter Madison, and son Spencer: Source:

Work as a Chip Designer and the First Steps to NVIDIA 

After graduating from Oregon State University at around 21, Huang began working at the microprocessor maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). He has spoken publicly about his experience at AMD, saying there he fell in love with building microprocessors and computers.

Huang’s next role was at LSI Logic, a rising startup among chip makers. The company focused on building design tools for system designers to create custom chips. Huang held various positions at LSI Logic, including general management roles. His work at the company provided him with a new view on product creation: the real challenge is not what you’re trying to build, but how you build it.

Together with his friends and fellow engineers Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem Huang developed the idea of building their own company. In 1992, the three friends met at Denny’s to discuss a concept for a product that could solve problems that normal computers couldn’t. 

This was during the tech revolution of the 1990s when Personal Computers began to gain momentum, and Microsoft’s Windows became accessible to non-technical users. Microprocessors were key innovations of the era, used to fuel complex systems.

While the tech industry focused mainly on Central Processing Units (CPUs) for general tasks, the NVIDIA co-founders decided to focus on General Processing Units (GPUs) for specific tasks.

In the 1990s, this type of computer chip had limited use cases and was mainly used in image and video rendering for games. Making GPUs the center of a business strategy was risky at the time, but the co-founders decided to go for it. 

Quitting LSI Logic, Founding NVIDIA, and Being Close to Bankruptcy 

Together with Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem, Huang decided to launch NVIDIA and explore the potential of GPUs, And, the first step was to receive funding. Jensen reached out to the LSI Logic CEO at the time, who connected him with venture capitalist and Sequoia founder Don Valentine. The investor agreed to give the money.
Jensen Huang working as an engineer. Source: New York Post

Jensen Huang working as an engineer. Source: New York Post

After receiving investment, Huang left his job at LSI Logic and founded NVIDIA in 1993. NVIDIA launched as a company specializing in 3D graphic chips for personal computers with a main focus on video games. They faced 2 main challenges: the small size of the gaming market in the 1990s and the large competition from other graphics developer companies. Looking back at the time, Huang said in one of his interviews with Sequoia: 
We were working in a small office at a strip mall. I think we probably hired up to 20 people, or something like that. And, here we are, we’re going to build a new chip for a new industry. And so we just started from first principles and started building it up. And we specified this chip called NV1.
The NV1 chip, NVIDIA’s first product, faced failure. It was complex to use, retail sales were low, and their biggest customer, Diamond Multimedia returned nearly 250,000 chips, costing NVIDIA $10M. 

NVIDIA’s second attempt, the NV2, was an improved version of its predecessor. It was meant for the gaming company Saga’s latest game. However, the project was halted after the release of Windows 95 and DirectX, which set new standards for graphics APIs that the NV2 did not support. The NVIDIA team realized they were working on the wrong architecture, after which Huang contacted Saga’s CEO at the time Irimajiri-san,  and stopped the contract. 

After two failures, NVIDIA was close to being out of business. The company pooled its last resources for the third attempt, the RIVA 128 NV3 chip. In 1997, they released the product, which became a positive shift for the company. The RIVA 128 NV saw high demand and secured NVIDIA’s place in the market. 
I learned that it was ok for CEOs to say that the strategy didn’t work, that the technology didn’t work, that the product didn’t work, but we’re still going to be great… Because that’s when the character of the company really comes out.
NVIDIA CEO shared afterward.

Leading NVIDIA from 3D Graphics to AI Computing  

NVIDIA didn’t stop after making a range of successful graphic cards, like the GeForce Series. In 2006, they rolled out CUDA, short for Compute Unified Device Architecture. This platform transformed NVIDIA chips, enabling their use in a broad range of computing tasks. Beyond just powering graphics, CUDA made it possible for these chips to tackle deep learning, artificial intelligence, and scientific computation.

NVIDIA started to ship CUDA to Artificial Intelligence researchers, introducing its potential for data processing, research, and development. 

Back then, AI didn’t really have any mainstream application. It was mainly a subject in academic papers. NVIDIA’s betting on AI was a risky decision, but it proved to be a great one. 

In 2012, NVIDIA GPUs were used for the neural network AlexNet, the first practical AI application used for image recognition. This marked the start of NVIDIA GPUs serving as an engine for AI applications. 

NVIDIA GPUs opened up new markets, including сomputer-aided drug design (CADD), robotics, and self-driving cars. They are highly popular in cryptocurrency mining too. Since 2017, NVIDIA has introduced a series of GPUs designed specifically for miners, including the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090, GeForce RTX 3090 Ti, and others.

Huang likes to mention:
NVIDIA is a market maker, not a share taker.
The company’s been having a good run with good financial performance. In 2016, the NVIDIA stock price hit $100 for the first time. In 2017, Fortune named Huang the Businessperson of the Year. In 2019, Harvard Business Review ranked him as the best-performing CEO in the world, and in 2023, the Economist chose him as the best CEO of the year. In 2024, Huang was elected a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. And according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, he's the 19th richest person in the world with a net worth of over $79.6 billion.
Jensen Huang got an NVIDIA tattoo when the company’s stock hit $100. Source: Yahoo News

Jensen Huang got an NVIDIA tattoo when the company’s stock hit $100. Source: Yahoo News

NVIDIA has reached its peak following the launch of the popular AI chatbot, ChatGPT in 2022. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, used 10,000 NVIDIA GPUs to train the model. The success of ChatGPT drove unprecedented attention to NVIDIA, with companies across industries needing NVIDIA’s technology for their AI projects.  

Jensen Huang's Views on the Future of AI 

According to Jensen Huang, AI computing is still in the early stages, and in 5 years, the technology will be able to pass human tests. Talking at a Stanford University economic forum, the NVIDIA CEO said: 
If I gave an AI a math test, a reasoning test, a history test, a biology test, and medical exams, every single test that you can possibly imagine, you make that list of tests and put it in front of the computer science industry, and I’m guessing in five years time, we’ll do well on every single one.
Huang also advocates for sovereign AI, stating that every country needs to have control over its digital intelligence. He mentions that computers will get smarter and the interaction between computers and humans will change.  


How old is NVIDIA CEO Jansen Huang?

On February 17, 2024, Huang turned 61 years old. 

Is Jensen Huang married? 

Yes. Huang met his wife Lori Morris while studying at Oregon State University. They got married five years later and had two children.

What’s Jensen Huang’s net worth?  

As of April 1, 2024, Jensen Huang’s net worth is over $79.6 billion. He ranks 19th in Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. 

When did Jensen Huang start NVIDIA?

Huang founded NVIDIA together with his friends and fellow engineers Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem in 1993. Malachowsky continues to be a member of the executive staff and a senior technology executive, while Priem left the company in 2003 due to personal reasons. 

Web3 writer and crypto HODLer with a keen interest in market trends and recent technologies.