Nvidia, the company powering the AI revolution, saw its stock jump over 200% this year as companies race to purchase its chips.
Yet, Jensen Huang, the CEO and cofounder of the chip giant, says he still worries that his company — which has a $1.19 trillion market cap as of November 29th — may one day fail.
During the 2023 New York Times DealBook Summit, the paper's Andrew Sorkin asked Huang to elaborate on why he keeps saying that he does everything he can for his company to not go out of business.
"What is that about?" Sorkin asked Huang during an interview.
In response, Huang said that he just can't shake off the feeling that the company may not continue to survive, given the challenges Nvidia has gone through in the past. The company nearly went bankrupt in the mid-1990s.
"I think when you build a company from the ground up, and you've experienced real adversity, and you really experienced nearly going out of business several times, that feeling stays with you," Huang said.
The fear of his chip empire tanking, Huang admitted, is a feeling he grapples with every morning when he wakes up.
"I don't wake up proud and confident. I wake up worried and concerned," Huang said as the audience laughed politely in response. "It just depends on which side of the bed you get out on."
Part of what Sorkin characterized as Huang's "paranoia" may come from Nvidia's facing competition from other semiconductor companies like the Taiwan-based TSMC.
"I don't think people are trying to put me out of business — I probably know they're trying to, so that's different," Huang said. "I live in this condition where we're partly desperate, partly aspirational."
Yet, it appears that Huang's anxiety over failure is what drives his desire to keep Nvidia afloat.
"I think during adversity you're more focused," Huang said. "And when you're more focused, you could perform better.
"I like to live in that state where we're about to perish, and so I enjoy that condition," he continued. "I do my best work in that condition."
The summit isn't the first time Huang has candidly discussed how hardships motivate him to run his business.
"My heart rate actually goes down," the CEO recently told The New Yorker when talking about how he performs well under adversity. "Anyone who's dealt with rush hour in a restaurant knows what I'm talking about."
In fact, Huang said in an October podcast episode that starting Nvidia was "a million times harder than I expected," and that he wouldn't do it again if he had a do-over.
The CEO's ambitions may be what brings some sense of joy into his life.
"I like going home and telling my wife I saved the company today," Huang said during the DealBook summit. "Maybe it wasn't true, but I'd like to think so."2023-11-29T20:59:55Z dg43tfdfdgfd