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Like a Pop Star, Nvidia’s CEO Huang Stirs Up ‘Jensanity’ in Taiwan

In the week and a half since Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang arrived in Taiwan, his every move has been breathlessly followed.

Huang, the local boy who made good, is the subject of wall-to-wall coverage on Taiwanese television and reporters trail him constantly. He was mobbed by attendees at the Computex tech trade fair and has featured in thousands of social media posts.

Broadcasters have highlighted each restaurant Huang has dined at, resulting in booming business for the lucky eateries. “Jensanity,” as some Taiwanese have taken to calling his sky-high popularity, has taken over the island.

At Computex, a leather-jacket clad Huang, holding a plastic cup of beer, shouted to a group of people crowding around him: “Who makes the best graphics cards?”

“Nvidia!” they shouted back.

For fans, the co-founder and leader of the AI chip giant – now the third-most valuable company in the U.S. and key to the artificial intelligence revolution – is only getting his due.

“He’s just such an inspiration – he’s one of us,” said engineer Hol Chang, 38, as he waited to hear Huang speak at Computex this week. “What he is doing will change the world.”

“He’s like a pop star. That’s how we view him,” said Amanda Shih, who works in finance and was happy to have seen him at Computex after missing out on a ticket to a speech he gave at Taipei’s elite National Taiwan University on Sunday.

His fame in Taiwan prompts bemusement from Nvidia colleagues and executives in the chip industry. Others note this intense interest never happens in the U.S. In Silicon Valley, where Nvidia is based, he’s sometimes but not always recognized.

Huang, 61, who was born in the southern city of Tainan, Taiwan’s historic capital, before emigrating to the United States at the age of 9, has returned the love.

He has hobnobbed with the likes of Morris Chang, the retired founder of Taiwanese chip behemoth TSMC at the popular Ningxia Night Market, but has also taken time to meet with ordinary admirers.

He’s patiently stopped to pose for selfies, answer questions about what he has eaten and sign autographs including a less conventional signature request from one female fan to sign her top across her chest.

Huang threw the first ball at a baseball game Saturday night in Taipei, and apologized to the crowd for his poor Mandarin which he said he had only learned in the United States.

“I want to tell you that I am very grateful that you made me and our company Nvidia feel so welcome in Taiwan. Taiwan is the home of Nvidia’s very treasured partners,” he said in English, before reeling off names such as TSMC and Foxconn.

He regularly speaks Taiwanese when out on the streets in Taiwan and at press events. The language is closely associated with those who champion Taiwan’s separate identity from China, though it is also spoken in China’s Fujian province and is generally known as Hokkien.

“In the past, some people looked down on Taiwanese. Now Jensen Huang, the ‘three trillion dollar man’, naturally uses his mother tongue,” Wang Ting-yu, a senior lawmaker for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, wrote in a Facebook post.

Huang’s comments that he was thinking of building another research and development center in Taiwan, maybe in the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung, where a lot of tech manufacturing already takes place, sparked light-hearted but still serious pitches by both cities’ mayors on Facebook.

“I’ve got a sailing license myself. If future Nvidia employees get welcomed to Kaohsiung, we will include three boat seats, so they can go out to sea at any time,” the city’s mayor Chen Chi-mai wrote above a picture of himself captaining a sailboat.

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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