Nvidia began as the dream of Jensen Huang, who was bent on owning a graphics chip company. He has been at the helm of the company as the co-founder and CEO since the two other co-founders retired. It has been an up-and-down journey for Jensen in business, who at one time had his employees threatening to leave, but as a man who has a high tolerance for discomfort, he rose above it all. Today, Nvidia has made enormous strides and completed its acquisition of Mellanox in April 2020. Here is the story of its founding and the Nvidia logo’s evolution to better understand the company.
Every Dream is Valid
In 2018, Jensen Huang described himself as the product of his parents’ dreams and aspirations. He said that in the late 1960s, his father was in the US for a worker training program, and upon returning home, he vowed that his two sons would also go to America. In preparation for this vision, Jensen’s mother taught the children English, picking ten random words from the dictionary and asking Jensen and his older brother to spell. It did not matter that his mother had no clue if they spelled right or not; what mattered was the conviction in her heart that one day, her children would see better days.
The opportunity to go to the US presented itself in 1973 when Jensen’s uncle saw a boarding school advert in a magazine. Due to Thailand’s political tension, Jensen was sent to America to live with relatives. The relatives sent him to Oneida Baptist Institute; a school he discovered was for troubled kids. His roommate was 17 years old and fresh out of prison. He had stab wounds covering his body, and strangely, the two became best friends. The young Chinese boy was bullied and had to clean the toilets every day. He has never understood why his relatives sent him to the school, but the experience taught him tolerance.
After a while, Jensen reunited with his parents in Oregon. By then, his passion for computers was evident, and he continued studying computers after graduating from high school. He then got his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Oregon University, where he met his wife; she was his lab partner. Later, Jensen studied for his master’s degree at Stanford University and was employed as a chips designer by AMD and LSI Logic. Being his own boss started lingering in his thoughts, and the dream of owning a graphic-chips company began incubating in the engineer’s mind.
Nvidia is Born
According to Forbes, Jensen Huang, Curtis Priem, and Chris Malachowsky regularly met at Denny’s, a diner in East San Jose, where they laid down the foundation for Nvidia. The meetings started during Christmas in 1992 when Jensen had dinner with Curtis. At the time, Jensen was already determined to have technology that would bring education, entertainment, and travel to life through a computer screen. On the other hand, Curtis was working at Sun Microsystems and would have given anything to try out a new opportunity. The thirst in the two saw them decide to launch a company where Curtis would provide the skills in chip designing while Jensen would build the firm.
Consequently, on February 17, 1993, Jensen celebrated his birthday by resigning from LSI Logic and cashing his stock options worth $150,000. He used the amount to establish the company and set aside some to raise his family. As he told Money, Jensen and Curtis would spend days and nights in Curtis’ living room, which served as their office. They survived on coffee and donuts and barely had time to sleep. Their hard work and ambition paid off when Jensen convinced Sequoia and Sutter Hill to provide $2.5 million in seed capital.
Unfortunately, the success it had started to enjoy came to an end in 1996 when customers preferred buying rival chips leaving Nvidia with chips it could not sell. Their unique chips were no longer what the consumers demanded; hence Jensen had to adjust the company’s goal. They designed a new chip, Riva 123, which had 30% of the units produced flawed. They overcame the hurdle by testing every chip to avoid shipping out defective chips to customers. By 2016, the company boasted a 70% market share of the GPU sector and a $50 billion market cap. Jensen credits the company’s culture for its success, and he has come to witness the gut feeling he had years ago- he knew his graphics chip company had a lot of potential.
The Meaning of the Logo and Logo Evolution
If you are keen on mythology, you might have heard of “Invidia,” which is Latin for “sense for envy. Fudzilla explains that in Greek mythology, there was a titan called Nemesis who controlled witches and black magicians. Once Italians took over Greece, they could not help but marvel at the goddess; hence they renamed her iNvidia, and she was depicted as appropriately dressed in green.
The green theme was also in the Nvidia logo in 1996, three years after the company’s founding. They chose the all-seeing eye, which symbolizes the company’s endless search for innovation, and their vision, according to 1000logos. In the logo, half of the eye is black and white while the other half of the eye is white and on top of it is a green square. Below the image was the wordmark in which “n” was italicized and in lower case while “vidia” was in upper case.
In 2006, the company tweaked the logo a bit; instead of half being black, it was in green while the other half remained white. The square was still green, but the shade was darkened. Also, the word mark was changed such that the “n” was no longer italicized. The rest of the letters were still in the upper case. While the first logo was in a serif font, the new logo was in a sanserif font, and it has not been changed again to date.