Jensen Huang has several things in common with Steve Jobs.
Both have started and grew highly successful companies: Apple was the first company in the world to exceed the market valuation of three trillion dollars. Nvidia, the multinational of which Huang is CEO, it is approaching a trillion dollars thanks (also) to its processors for artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency management.
Jobs was the son of a man born in Homs, Syria, and then flown to the US, to New York. Huang was born in Tainan on the island of Taiwanand flew with his family to Oregon, USA, when he was 9 years old.
Like Jobs, who made the black turtleneck a hallmark, Huang has long associated his figure with one inseparable black leather jacket.
And just like Jobs, Huang just held an epic speech in front of an audience of students.
"Stay hungry, stay crazy," Steve said in 2005 at Stanford. At the National Taiwan Universitya few days ago, Jensen also concluded his speech with a reference to food: "Remember to always run - he told the undergraduates - both when you're hunting and when you're prey".
But let's start from the beginning. And let's go over Huang's words, which have gone viral on social mediabecause the three stories he told about Nvidia's failures and terrible times have proved to be an inspiration to many, not just the students of NTU Taipei who are preparing to enter the world of work.
"My journey began 40 years before yours - said Huang -. 1984 was a perfect year to graduate [proprio in quel periodo iniziava la rivoluzione innescata dai personal computer di Apple e Ibm, ndr]. I predict 2023 will be the same. Today is the most successful day of your life so far. You are graduating from National Taiwan University. I too was successful until I started Nvidia. I have faced failures. Very large, all humiliating and embarrassing. Many have almost killed us. Let me tell you three Nvidia stories that made us who we are today."
The first story / lesson
"I founded Nvidia to help accelerate accelerated computing [una tecnologia che utilizza processori specializzati per eseguire compiti specifici in modo più veloce ed efficiente, ndr] . We started with 3D graphics for PC games. We have invented an unconventional and low cost 3D approach. Thanks to this technology we won a contract with Sega to contribute to their video game console".
But a year after signing the deal with Sawthe Japanese video game giant, Huang and his team realized they had chosen the wrong path. A path that would lead them to crash. Because their technology wouldn't have been compatible with Windows.
Had Nvidia finished the job for Sega, they would have fallen behind on other fronts. And it would fail. If he had given up on the contract with the Japanese, which was essential for his survival, he would have met the same fate.
At this crossroads, Huang has done the unthinkable.
"I contacted Sega's CEO and suggested he find another partner. But I also needed Sega to pay us, otherwise Nivida would go bankrupt - said Huang - This request embarrassed me. But Sega's CEO, with to my amazement, he agreed."
"Sega's understanding and generosity allowed us to survive another six months. Realizing our mistakes, and being humble enough to ask for help, saved Nvidia.
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"Second story / lesson
“In 2007, we announced Cuda GPU. We wanted CUDA to become a programming model capable of enhancing some applications: from scientific computing to physics simulations to image processing. Creating a new computing model is incredibly difficult and has rarely been done in history."
Cuda GPU was an innovative and promising programming language. But it had sky-high costs for Nvidia, which impacted the company's bottom line. So high as to risk, even in this case, to kill her. "We have suffered for many years and our investors were skeptical - Huang told the students - they wanted us to put it aside to limit losses and focus on profits".
But Huang and his team persevered.
"We created a conference called GTC and we promoted Cuda around the world". And in the end the developers arrived. And many applications were born". And then in 2012 the definitive turning point. Artificial intelligence researchers have discovered Cuda. And Nvidia technology contributed to the “Big Bang of AI”.
"At that point we risked everything on deep learning - said Huang - and ten years later the artificial intelligence revolution began". The one that is leading Nvidia towards a market valuation of one trillion dollars.
"But it was how we got there that shaped our character, with the pain and suffering it took to realize a vision."
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Third story / lesson
"In 2010, Google wanted to turn Android into a mobile computer with excellent graphics. Nvidia's computing and graphics expertise made us an ideal partner to help them. And so we entered the mobile chip market. We had immediate success and the Our stock price went up. But the competition was growing rapidly. The phone market is huge. We could have fought. But we made a tough decision. We left the market. Because Nvidia's mission is to build computers that solve problems that ordinary computers they can't solve."
For Huang, everyone should be dedicated solely to pursuing their vision. Nvidia's strategic retreatin that case, it paid off.
"Coming out of the telephony market - said Huang - we gave ourselves the opportunity to invent a new one. We imagined a new type of computer for machines equipped with neural networks that execute artificial intelligence algorithms".
“We entered the robotics market and now have billions of dollars of robotics and automotive businesses. Retirement is not easy for the bright and successful. Yet strategic retreat and sacrifice, deciding what to give up, is essential to any success".
“You will witness great changes. And just like me, who faced the PC and chip revolution, you are today in the starting blocks of the AI era. Every industry will be revolutionized. Ready for new ideas: your ideas. In 40 years we have created the PC, the internet, mobile devices, the cloud and now artificial intelligence. And what will you create? Whatever it is, go after it like we did. Run. Don't walk. Remember: run both when you are hunting for food and when you are prey".