NVIDIA CEO Says He Would Not Have Started NVIDIA If He Had A Do-Over

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang sitting for an interview, facing right.
Starting a business and having it be successful is incredibly difficult. NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang acknowledged as much in a recent interview in which he shared some candid remarks about what it was like like being a budding entrepreneur. The most surprising tidbit, however, came when he revealed that if he could take a mulligan, he would not have started NVIDIA, a company that posted record revenue of $13.51 billion last quarter and now has a market cap of over $1 trillion.

It's hard to imagine a world without NVIDIA and it's equally challenging to envision Huang deciding not to embark on this path if he could somehow go back in time over 30 years. By some estimates, his net worth is over $38 billion. Last year, Huang and his wife Lori donated $50 million to their alma mater, Oregon State University, to help fund a three-story, 150,000 square-foot engineering complex outfitted with a supercomputer.

Huang was successful before co-founding NVIDIA. He served as director as LSI Logic and, prior to having breakfast with two friends at Denny's where they cooked up the idea for a 3D graphics chip, he worked as a microprocessor engineer at AMD. Still, having gone down the road of co-founding NVIDIA, he's been able to do things that might not have been available otherwise. So it's a bit of a bombshell to hear him say he wouldn't have started NVIDIA if he had it do over again.

Jensen made the comments during a sit-down interview with Acquired.FM. He spent around an hour and half answering questions on a variety of topics. The most interesting nuggets, however, can be mined starting at the 1hr11min45sec mark.

Ben Gilbert, co-founder and co-host of Acquired.FM, saved his best question for last asking, "If you were magically 30 years old again today in 2023, and you were going to Denny's with your two best friends who are the two smartest people you know and you're talking about starting a company, what are you talking about starting?"

Huang began his answer by stating, "I wouldn't do it," which elicited a laugh from David Rosenthal, the other co-host, presumably because he thought it was a tongue-in-cheek remark. However, Huang was not joking.

"The reason why I wouldn't do it, and it goes back to why it's so hard, is building a company and building NVIDIA turned out to be a million times harder than I expected it to be, any of use expected it to be. And at that time if we realized the pain and suffering and just how vulnerable you're going to feel and the challenges you're going to endure, the embarrassment and you know, the list of all the things that go wrong, I don't think anybody would start a company. Nobody in their right mind would do it," Huang said.

While certainly a surprising answer, given how successful he's been with NVIDIA and how big the company turned out to be, Huang doesn't come off as disingenuous in his answer. You can hear the emotion in his voice and see tinges of pain in his face as he answers the question, suggesting there's more to the story such as specific details.

He went on to call the lack of knowledge of how difficult it is to start a company to be a superpower of entrepreneurs. In a sense, it's another way of saying ignorance is bliss. Naturally, skeptics are going to point to Huang's wealth, as well as NVIDIA's marketing strategy for its consumer gaming GPUs and the amount of VRAM on current-generation on current products to dismiss his remarks. And indeed, we have a hard time believing Huang would scrap the idea to start NVIDIA if he could do it all over again. But it also comes off an honest and supremely vulnerable answer that, in the moment, must have felt like the right one.

Check out the full interview if you get a chance, as there is a lot of good stuff in there.