Jensen Huang started his $2 trillion company Nvidia at a Denny’s breakfast booth

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Jensen Huang started his $2 trillion company Nvidia at a Denny’s breakfast booth

Some people start businesses in their parents’ garages or basements. Others start theirs in college, building a clientele among fellow students.

Jensen Huang started his trillion-dollar tech company Nvidia while eating at a Denny’s restaurant in San Jose, California, he recently told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Nvidia, one of the chipmakers behind the burgeoning artificial intelligence industry, is currently worth $2.22 trillion, ranking it among the most valuable companies in the world. But in 1993, it was a business idea shared by three friends and engineers — Huang, Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem — who wanted to revolutionize gaming and media with 3D graphics.

In 1993, the trio met at the Denny’s location, Huang said. He was 30 years old, married and a father of two when inspiration struck him at the same restaurant where he once worked as a busboy at age 15, he added

“We came right here to this Denny’s, sat right back there, and the three of us decided to start the company,” said Huang, who remains Nvidia’s CEO today. “Frankly, I had no idea how to do it, nor did they. None of us knew how to do anything.”

From breakfast booth to booming business

By 1995, Nvidia had developed a low-cost computer processing chip called the NV1, according to the company’s website. This helped them snag a partnership with Sega to help make its games accessible on PC.

But the chip was a failure, too “technically poor” to render any significant level of graphics, Huang told graduating students in a May 2023 commencement speech at National Taiwan University.

The mistake nearly pushed the company into bankruptcy. Huang negotiated a contract buyout with Sega that provided Nvidia with a financial lifeline and resources to develop the NV1’s successor.

The new chip, called the RIVA 128, debuted in 1997 and quickly became a commercial success. By the 2010s, Nvidia was diversifying beyond the video game industry to laptop computers, automobiles, artificial intelligence and even cloud-based computing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nvidia shares have returned more than 500% since the start of 2023, Goldman Sachs reported last month.

The secret to Huang’s success

The billionaire CEO never anticipated that Nvidia’s diversification — driven by its development of a particularly powerful graphics processing chip — would prepare it for the age of artificial intelligence, he said.

“That was luck founded by vision,” said Huang. “We invented this capability and then one day, the researchers that were creating deep learning discovered this architecture. Because this architecture turned out to be perfect for them … Perfect for AI.”

That particular kind of optimism is a crucial factor to leading a successful life and career, according to cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot.

“Optimism changes subjective reality,” Sharot said in a 2012 TED Talk. “The way we expect the world to be changes the way we see it. But it also changes objective reality. It acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Controlled experiments have shown that optimism is not only related to success, it leads to success.”

As for Huang, the 61-year-old marveled at how a sit-down at Denny’s launched a tech giant, and said that dedication will take you far.

“This is the most extraordinary thing,” he said. “That a normal dishwasher busboy could grow up to be this. There’s no magic. It’s just 61 years of hard work every single day. I don’t think there’s anything more than that.”

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