Nvidia’s 2015 annual meeting took place at the company's HQ in Santa Clara, CA. About 50 people attended. Unlike in past years, there was no “annual yearbook” or product displays, and sadly, the food options have dwindled to just a few pastries, a plate of fruit, and coffee and water. If you come to the meeting, you’re coming to see Mr. Huang, who clearly takes deserved pride in the company he’s built.
He opened the meeting by talking up Nvidia and how it’s the “best in the world in our field.” He mentioned that Nvidia early on recognized video games would be tech-driven, a prediction which turned out to be “absolutely right.” Looking forward, visual computing and game simulations will drive technological innovation for a few more decades as video games become even more complex.
Despite being the leader in video game technology, Nvidia no longer wants to be known as a mere video game company. It has branched out into virtual reality (the future of video gaming), self-driving cars, and deep learning (AI, image recognition, pattern recognition, etc.). Nvidia’s sales to the auto industry are booming, with 85% growth from FY14 to FY15. That’s more than cloud and HPC growth—53%—during the same time period. Mr. Huang said that future cars are going to be “computers on wheels,” and “safer and easier to drive.” Overall, “simulation work” is largely done on Nvidia technology, which allows people to “see the world around you in real time.”
Nvidia has two women on its board, Dawn Hudson (CMO, NFL) and Persis Drell (Dean, School of Engineering, Stanford University). I asked how Nvidia could become more diverse, as all the board members except for Mr. Huang appeared to be white, which is an unusual composition in the very diverse Silicon Valley, where about 40% of Santa Clara County residents are immigrants.
Mr. Huang delivered a great response, unlike many other companies, which become defensive under the same line of questioning (I’m looking at you, San Jose Water Company (SJW), with your one female board member and not a single person of color in the front of the room at your 2015 shareholder meeting). Mr. Huang responded that “through diversity, we get better answers,” and explained that it was difficult to attract board members when Nvidia was known only as a video game tech company. Now, as Nvidia successfully branches out into several different areas, it is getting more and more attention and interest.
Let’s start talking about diversity, complacency, and other difficult topics, folks. The world ain’t gonna fix itself, but as long as there are people like Dr. Drell and Mr. Huang—intrepid pioneers who aren’t afraid to meet challenges head-on—I have a feeling things are going to be just fine.
(Originally published May 21, 2015, referring to NVIDIA's May 20, 2015 annual shareholder meeting.)