Country of origin: Taiwan
Year came to U.S.: 1973
Education: BS Electrical Engineering, Oregon State University; MS Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
Business: NVIDIA (1993)
Headquarters: Santa Clara, CA
2020 revenue: $16.7 billion
Worldwide employment: 18,975
Ranked 184 on the 2021 Fortune 500
Huang started out cleaning toilets in the dorm of his school for “difficult children.”
NVIDIA’s technology has been used in movies like Harry Potter and Avatar.
“I remember being scared and being sad,” said Jensen Huang to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2010. “On the other hand, you are just a kid and you land in America and everything is big and beautiful and bright with amazing restaurants like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut!”
Huang has come a long way since then. His first job was in fast food (Denny’s). Today, he is co-founder and CEO of NVIDIA, a graphics processing unit (GPU) company, and he was once ranked among the highest-paid CEOs until he cut his salary to $1.00. As the BBC noted, “Mr. Huang eschews the ordinary trappings of corporate success.”
Born in Taiwan, moved to Thailand, then sent away to Tacoma, Washington, Huang’s earliest memories were far from pleasant. He was sent to a school for “difficult” children, and his main chore as a nine-year-old was to clean the toilets in the dorm.
It was a defining experience, however. It taught him always to do one’s best in everything, even sports. When he was 15, he placed third in junior doubles at the U.S. Open Table Tennis Championship.
It also taught him the value of a solid work ethic. When Huang started NVIDIA in 1993, it was “the world’s last computer graphics company to have been founded,” he told the BBC. But, with his diligence and perseverance, NVIDIA survived and outstripped the competition. According to Huang, “It didn’t matter to us whether people believed in us. We believed in ourselves. We had the courage to follow our own path.”
NVIDIA invented the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) in 1999 and has set new standards in visual computing with interactive graphics on tablets, portable media players and workstations. Its technology has been used in movies like Harry Potter, Iron Man and Avatar and is at the center of the most cutting-edge trends in technology: virtual reality, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.
In 2017, Huang was named Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year and Harvard Business Review ranked him No. 3 on its list of the world’s 100 best-performing CEOs over the lifetime of their tenure.
Updated July 2021