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CNA Explains: The story of Nvidia's rise to become the world's No 1 company

SINGAPORE: In March, artificial intelligence chip giant Nvidia’s market capitalisation exceeded US$2 trillion. 

Reports said the company took just 180 days to double its value from US$1 trillion — less than half the time it took tech behemoths like Apple and Microsoft.

Over 60 days later, Nvidia’s value climbed above US$3 trillion.

And on Jun 18, it became the world’s most valuable company.

Soon, however, a days-long sell-off took hold, and it ceded the No 1 position to Microsoft.

Still, it's been a heady, blistering ride for Nvidia.

It began in a humble American diner.

The year was 1993 and three friends — Jensen Huang, Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem – met in a Denny’s in Silicon Valley to discuss a business idea.

They wanted to create a chip that would enable realistic, three-dimensional graphics on personal computers.

The company’s first product was a flop – it wasn’t what the market wanted or needed, and Nvidia almost went out of business, according to previous reports.

Nvidia’s second chip, meanwhile, was “doomed” from the start, even while it was being developed for video game firm Sega.

Other 3D graphics companies had emerged, and the rest of the world, including Microsoft, was using software that would not support Nvidia’s product.

Sega’s then-CEO Shoichiro Irimajiri made an unusual decision to release Nvidia from its obligations, but continue paying them as agreed in the contract.

“It was all the money that we had. And it gave us just enough money to hunker down,” Mr Huang, Nvidia's CEO, has said.

For many years, he would go on to kick off presentations to staff by reciting Nvidia's unofficial motto: “Our company is thirty days from going out of business”.

It did see other bumps in the road, such as