Jensen Huang is the co-founder, CEO and president of NVIDIA, a graphics-chip maker that designs chips for games, data centers, and self-driving cars. Huang was born in Taiwan, moved to Thailand, and emigrated to the U.S. as a child in 1973; at the time, his parents feared for his safety due to civil and political unrest in Southeast Asia. He landed in Tacoma, Washington, to stay with his aunt and uncle. They sent him to a school in Kentucky – one which turned out to be a reform school, rather than a prep school as they had intended. There, he spent much of his time doing his assigned chores, taught his 17-year-old roommate to read, and picked up table tennis. He credits the defining experience with instilling in him the formidable work ethic which has contributed to his success today.
In the mid-1970s, Huang and his parents reunited in Oregon. He continued practicing table tennis, placing third in junior doubles at the U.S. Open Table Tennis Championship at age 15. In high school he also developed an interest in video games and computers. He enrolled at Oregon State University and earned a bachelor’s deree in Electrical Engineering in 1984. He waited tables for his first job in his 20s, where he learned how to “make the best of a state of chaos,” forcing him to abandon his shy nature. After graduating from college, Huang worked as a chip designer at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and subsequently at LSI Logic, a tech company in California. In 1992 he obtained a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.
That same year, Huang and Curtis Priem, a top engineer at Sun Microsystems, made plans to launch NVIDIA. On his 30th birthday in 1993, Huang left his job at LSI Logic. Shortly after, he established NVIDIA along with Priem and Chris Malachowsky. Over the next decade, the company faced numerous challenges, including competition, technology failures, staff issues, and tight finances. Ultimately, Huang learned that intellectual honesty had to be a pillar of the company culture, that mistakes had to be corrected early, and that adversity and the ability to admit failure fostered a rich corporate character.
In 1999, NVIDIA became the first company to develop graphical processing units (GPUs) and the first to use them for artificial intelligence technology. More recently, NVIDIA has been revolutionizing the automotive industry with its foray into autonomous vehicle technology. Since the 2010s, the company has partnered with top automakers, including Audi, Mercedes, Toyota, BMW, Rimac, Jaguar Land Rover, Hyundai, Volvo, Volkswagen, GM, Lotus, and NIO.
NVIDIA’s automotive technology ranges from design and engineering visualization for vehicle developers, virtual showrooms for personalized retail experience and built-in intelligent assistants, to self-driving and self-parking software. One of the major challenges to dominating this industry is ensuring vehicle safety, a goal which NVIDIA is supporting with thousands of dedicated engineers as it further develops its DRIVE platforms. Their technology is heralded as some of the best in the industry, and in a quickly evolving field NVIDIA and Huang have proven that they can keep up.