SINGAPORE (Feb 26): One of the hottest tech companies in the world today neither makes trendy, state-of-the-art smartphones nor completely dominates the e-commerce space. It just designs chips that are used in artificial intelligence (AI)-powered devices. Founded by Taiwanese-born engineer Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia has risen to become a graphic chip powerhouse with a market capitalisation of US$152 billion ($200.7 billion), the world’s No 2 pure-play chipmaker behind Intel (market value of US$220 billion).

Huang, who has been described as a tech visionary in the mould of Apple’s Steve Jobs, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, bet early on that the ground would shift away from Intel, which has long dominated microprocessors in PCs. He wagered rightly that the future was voice and video, rather than just text and images which would require increasingly sophisticated graphics chips. “Nvidia is a platform company with a highly unique and leveragable architecture for some of the fastest growth markets in technology, including gaming, artificial intelligence and autonomous cars,” Vivek Arya, analyst for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who has been bullish on the firm for years, gushed in a recent report about the company.

Nvidia has also been one of the world’s best-performing tech stocks and a darling of retail investors. Last year, CNBC’s stocks guru Jim Cramer named his pet dog Everest Nvidia. Its shares are up 26% just this year, 138% since January last year, 1,889% over the past five years and a whopping 3,804% from its post-financial crisis lows of late 2008. Last May, Japan’s SoftBank Group, a key investor in AI-related technology firms, took a 5% stake in Nvidia, which further fuelled the stock.

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