How Jensen Huang went from washing dishes at Denny’s to founding a tech company now worth $2 trillion

How Jensen Huang went from washing dishes at Denny’s to founding a tech company now worth $2 trillion
via CNET, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Michelle De Pacina
15 days ago
Jensen Huang, the president and CEO of Nvidia, recently shared his humble beginnings as a dishwater before co-founding a tech company now valued at $2 trillion.
Key points:
  • Huang, 61, started his career at a Denny’s restaurant in Portland, Oregon, as a dishwasher. 
  • Nvidia, now valued at $2 trillion, is known for designing and manufacturing advanced graphics processing units (GPUs), which are essential components in gaming, visualization, data centers and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
The details:
  • Born in Taiwan, Huang moved to the U.S. at the age of 9. At 15, he started working for Denny’s as a dishwasher before being promoted to a busboy. “I did that very well,” he said in a recent interview with the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “I never left the station empty-handed. I never came back empty-handed. I was very efficient.”
  • Huang went on to earn an electrical engineering degree from Oregon State University and a master’s degree from Stanford University. In 1993, he found himself back at a Denny’s in Silicon Valley for a meeting with friends Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem, where the idea for Nvidia originated.
  • The trio of co-founders aimed to create a chip enabling realistic 3D graphics for personal computers. “The PC revolution was just getting going. We thought, why don’t we build a company that solves problems that a normal computer that is powered by general purpose computing can’t. That became the company’s mission,” recalled Huang, who was working as an engineer for Santa Clara-based company LSI Logic at the time.
  • Nvidia’s technology would go on to revolutionize various industries, including computational drug design, weather simulation, materials design, robotics, self-driving cars and AI. Today, there is a booth honoring Huang at a Denny’s restaurant in East San Jose.
Maintaining humility:
  • Nvidia saw a surge in stock value in mid-February: a 46% increase propelled it past Amazon, adding approximately $560 billion to its market capitalization. This made Nvidia the third-most-valuable company in the U.S., surpassing Alphabet
  • Huang is now worth $82 billion. Despite his success, he maintains humility, reflecting on his past and advocating for a flat company structure.
  • He emphasizes the importance of hands-on leadership, saying “No task is beneath me. I used to be a dishwasher. I used to clean toilets. I cleaned a lot of toilets. I’ve cleaned more toilets than all of you combined. And some of them you just can’t unsee.”
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