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information NVIDIA – The Company and the Name

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NVIDIA has received a lot of attention of late. The company stock value has surged about 240% over the past year, and NVIDIA is currently the third largest company in the world in terms of market cap, at about $2.21 trillion. Microsoft and Apple are numbers 1 and 2, with Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta in positions 5, 6 and 7.

On March 18, 2024 NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang delivered the keynote at the NVIDIA GTC. You can watch the recent NVIDIA GTC keynote online at this link, or check out the entire program of the March 18-21 event here.

So let’s take a look at NVIDIA company history, why it is trending so strongly, and, of course, the name choice.

History of NVIDIA

There are many accounts of the history of the company online, with that at Britannica a particularly informative read.

The company was formed in April 1993 by three computer science and engineering professionals, Jensen Huang, Curtis Priem and Chris Malachowsky. The founders brought experience developed at LSI Logic, Sun Microsystems and IBM.

The initial funding was $20 million from venture capital firms including the well-known Sequoia Capital. NVIDIA headquarters are in Santa Clara, California.

The initial focus of the company was in graphics-based computing, especially graphics processing units GPU, and applications in video-rich gaming.

NVIDIA went public in 1999, the same year NVIDIA won the contract for developing hardware for Microsoft Xbox.

In the 2000’s the company moved well beyond gaming, and by 2011 IBM and NVIDIA signed a $1.5 billion cross-licensing agreement.

Parallel Computing Roots

While NVIDIA were far from the first to embrace parallel computing, they did focus on it at a critical time. The roots of parallel computing go back to Charles Babbage with the first architecture specifically for parallel computing was announced in 1957.

NVIDIA made a significant move to parallel processing, particularly for graphical processing, with the release in 2006 of the Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA).

The emphasis on parallel computing placed them perfectly for supercomputer applications.

Chat GPT Developed with NVIDIA Chips

OpenAI developed ChatGPT on a supercomputer system powered by 10,000 NVIDIA GPUs. The NamePros Blog covered ChatGPT in OpenAI Dev Day – What Does GPT Store Mean for Domain Names?

By 2023 about 70% of the world’s supercomputers were powered by NVIDIA chips.

Omniverse

NVIDIA technology, including graphics, parallel computing, video and gaming, is well-positioned for the metaverse, and it is not surprising that NVIDIA released their own version of the metaverse in 2020, called the Omniverse.

Powerful Partnerships

If you visit the NVIDIA website, they prominently present some of their partnerships including:
  • With Microsoft for enhancements of generative AI
  • With Google for scaling AI
  • With various partners in edge computing
  • With Amazon for advanced generative AI
Digital Twin Technology

NVIDIA is also at the forefront of digital twin technologies, recently releasing Earth-2 to support state-of-the-art climate modelling and simulations.

Did They Start with No Name?

When NVIDIA started it is widely claimed they were not NVIDIA, and in fact had no name!

They were founded April 5, 1993. Whois shows that the NVIDIA.com domain name was registered not much later, though, on April 20, 1993. So if true they had no name at start, it was not for long.
Image-Whois-NVIDIA.png

Interestingly, their domain name is set to expire next month. I am always amazed when some of the most valuable digital assets in the world are not registered years in advance.

Where Did The Name Come From?

If NVIDIA was not a well-known company, I think some in naming would claim it was a poor name, failing the audio test. Also, V is not included in either Western or Chinese premium letter lists.

So how did they come up with the name NVIDIA? Apparently in the early days of the company various products were code named NV+, with NV standing for Next Version.

When they decided they needed a proper name for fund raising, they wanted the ‘NV’ combination to be retained.

A Distinctive Name

Sten Lillieström reminded us of the importance of a distinctive name for a brand, rather than a product or service match.

NVIDIA may hint at one of the aspects of the company, ‘vid’ for ‘video’ perhaps, and starts with NV, but NVIDIA is a unique and distinctive name.

When I did a search on OpenCorporates for ‘nvidia’, although it shows 85 active companies, most, perhaps all, are either branches of NVIDIA or companies that they acquired that handle specific aspects of their operation.

The ‘IA’ ending gives the name a pleasant sound, but also represents the acronym for Artificial Intelligence in French, a nice bonus.

By the way, in researching words that contained ‘nv’, I found that Merriam-Webster has a really useful feature that produces a comprehensive list of names with some letter combination – here is the link to Merriam-Webster list of words containing ‘nv’. None of them start with NV, although there are some nice branding possibilities like anvil, converge, convey, and envy.

The Latin and Roman Roots

NVIDIA is a thoroughly modern company, but their name has roots in the distant past. The Latin term invidia is translated to the English envy. As the Fortune article based on an interview with Jensen Huang points out, the invidia association was clearly intentional:
We couldn’t think of one, so we named all of our files NV, as in ‘next version,’ ” Huang says. A need to incorporate the company prompted the cofounders to review all words with those two letters, leading them to “invidia,” the Latin word for “envy.” It stuck.

Invidia was the Roman goddess of envy or jealousy.

The full term invidia is used in 98 active company names, or also known as names, according to OpenCorporates. DotDB show it registered in 51 TLDs, and in longer form in 365. By dropping the I, NVIDIA has a much more distinctive name.

Khalid Moammer wrote an interesting article: Nvidia, How the company got its name & Origins in Roman Mythology.

The corporate logo for NVIDIA suggests an eye and viewing, supposedly a reference to the mythological roots. Interestingly, the logo writes the name with a small n, i.e. nVIDIA. This article discusses how the logo has changed over the years, and also comments on the meaning behind the name.

Another informative article on the NVIDIA name is the Bloomberg article: How Do You Say Nvidia?

Well Defended

According to DotDB, NVIDIA the exact term is registered in 254 extensions, and is also part of about 1600 longer names.

However, I checked a number of these, and all of the key extensions redirect to their main nvidia.com. For example, the .co, .ai, .io, .us, .org, .net, .xyz, .tech, and .technology all redirect to their main site.

NVIDIA won the .ai version of their name in a UDRP, with the name transferred in May 2016.

Closing Thoughts

A few thoughts that came to mind as I researched and wrote this article:
  • There is often an interesting and idiosyncratic history associated with a naming choice, and NVIDIA is no exception.
  • Most companies will seek a distinctive name that can be successfully trademarked and defended.
  • The name will generally not be a direct service or product match, but may be suggestive of one aspect of their operations.
  • Latin, Greek and Roman terms can be an inspiration in naming.
  • The audio test is a worthwhile consideration, but there are numerous successful names that do not follow it.
  • The sectors in which NVIDIA operates highlight relevant modern technologies with naming opportunities, including parallel computing, graphics acceleration, chip sets, super computing, generative AI, video generation, gaming, metaverse, vehicle computing, edge computing, cloud computing, digital twin technology, mobile computing, and AI on a chip.
  • Don’t register distinctive trademarks!
Please share your thoughts on the naming choice for NVIDIA.
  • How do you feel about the association with ‘envy’?
  • Do you think a more common word, would have been better?
  • What about NVIDIA versus invidia, would you have preferred the full term, if it was available?

Updates:

(1) March 27, 2024 A reference was added to the section on the logo.
(2) March 28, 2024 I added the quotation confirming NV meaning and that the choice of a word based on invidia was intended was deliberate. Sincere thanks to Alan Shiflett, Sr. Director Aftermarket at GoDaddy, who reached out with several helpful references including this one. Since the meaning of NV is now confirmed directly by the NVIDIA CEO, I have eliminated the other possible meanings. The Bloomberg article reference was also added.
 
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The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
Thanks Bob, great coverage of 1 of the best company out there and best founder Jensen Huang.
 
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Investing in names like this is a recipe for bankruptcy.

Not only is it esoteric but it also has a negative connotation (envy). Then to top it off, a KEY letter is dropped.

Plus, it's a radio-test nightmare.

Despite all these, the name works fine for the company.

Why?

Because it was chosen by smart founders who incorporated their own meaning into the name (NV). And it's backed by awesome and ESSENTIAL line of products.

Another reason it works could also be related to the fact that huge chunk of their business seems to involve dealing with other businesses rather than individual customers, i.e a B2B business model.

Either way, a portfolio with names like Nvidia would struggle with performance.

By the way, thanks for another stellar post Bob!
 
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So I had to ask ChatGPT and it said:

The name NVIDIA itself is a portmanteau of "N" (from the word "en"), which represents the mathematical term for an unspecified integer, and "video". The founders intended to reflect the company's focus on graphics processing units (GPUs) and video-related technologies.

Asking for sources, it replied, in a rather cheeky manner:

The source of the naming comes from the founders of NVIDIA themselves. The name "NVIDIA" was coined by the company's co-founders: Jen-Hsun Huang, Chris Malachowsky, and Curtis Priem. They chose the name as a combination of "N" (representing a variable integer) and "video", reflecting the company's focus on graphics processing and video-related technologies. This information has been widely cited in interviews and articles about NVIDIA's history and origins.

Unfortunately, ChatGPT declined to provide specific sources, asking me to do the hard work instead!
 
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Thanks for asking ChatGPT @Acroplex. Too bad it refused to give any specific reference!

It is true that n (as to nth degree) + video has also been mentioned in the naming rationale. However, the similarity to the Latin invidia and Spanish envidia (also meaning envy) are widely mentioned as considerations in the choice of name, and the ending chosen seems to support that.

N as part of NV for next version seems much more clearly substantiated (although the small n in the logo I guess supports the integer possibility). UPDATE: see the update quote in article that seems to put issue to rest. I think Chat GPT needs to do some more reading!

I wondered if nvideo.com was available to register in 1993, had they wished to directly have that, and as far as I can see it was available, first registered in 1999.

Thanks for the input.

-Bob
 
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Despite all these, the name works fine for the company.

Why?

Because it was chosen by smart founders who incorporated their own meaning into the name (NV). And it's backed by awesome and ESSENTIAL line of products.
Yes, a great point. While names can help a business be more successful, especially B2C businesses, ultimately it is how great the company products and services and its innovation that matter.

While it is interesting to see the many individual considerations that may go into a corporate name, as you point out, it does not mean that having a portfolio of similar names would necessarily be profitable.

Thanks for your comments.

-Bob
 
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I registered an AI-related domain name recently - haven't had any luck selling it yet. But really, I hope AI fails. It is destroying my primary job, which was going quite well until ChatGPT was released. I usually don't believe in the concept of "you get what you pay for", but for AI it holds true.
 
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Malachowsky and Priem were looking to design a graphics chip, which they hoped would make competitors, in Priem’s words, “green with envy.” They called their company NVision, until they learned that the name was taken by a manufacturer of toilet paper. Huang suggested Nvidia, riffing on the Latin word invidia, meaning “envy.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/12/04/how-jensen-huangs-nvidia-is-powering-the-ai-revolution

Of course that can be a tongue-in-cheek rationalization, but anyway NVIDIA owns or at least has owned some NVISION trademarks.
 
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Alan Shiflett, Sr. Director Aftermarket at GoDaddy, kindly reached out to me with a number of useful links related to the naming of NVIDIA.

I have added the following quotation to the article. Based on an interview with Jensen Huang in 2017, it makes clear that NV meant Next Version. The quote also substantiates that they indeed considered the Latin word invidia when they selected a name. I have updated the article with the Fortune article reference and quotation.
We couldn’t think of one, so we named all of our files NV, as in ‘next version,’ ” Huang says. A need to incorporate the company prompted the cofounders to review all words with those two letters, leading them to “invidia,” the Latin word for “envy.” It stuck.

Alan also highly recommended the multiple episodes of the Acquired Podcast on the history of NVIDIA including an interview with Jensen Huang.

Also recommended reading: Bloomberg article How Do You Say Nvidia?

Very sincere thanks to Alan for providing this information.

-Bob
 
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AMD is the best in GPU and CPU. Choosing a good name is nothing if your product is not the best.
 
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Excellent article.

I always find it interesting the unwritten rules that get written as gospel. The radio test is one of them.

Who invented it? Why? Does it even matter?
It matters but I suspect only to domain name investors and marketers. Joe Public doesn’t care if you are NVIDIA or invidia. They will buy from whom they trust or click a link to.

I have been told many unwritten rules within domain name investing. I have pretty much ignored all of them.
 
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AMD is the best in GPU and CPU. Choosing a good name is nothing if your product is not the best.
AMD is the best? :unsure:

not Nvidia,
not intel,
not apple silicon...

Wow, how do you come to this conclusion?
 
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AMD gives more bang for the buck, which is usually important to youngsters and young adults (gamers), and that age is when absolute ("the best") opinions are formed.
 
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that age is when absolute ("the best") opinions are formed.

But remember kids, these chips weren't made for snackin'!
 
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AMD gives more bang for the buck, which is usually important to youngsters and young adults (gamers), and that age is when absolute ("the best") opinions are formed.
Yep, I understand this.

But in this case, for AI chips (or lets say performance), AMD might just be on the 3rd place, definitely not on the 1st (which is Nvidia for now).
 
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Nvidia is bigger than AI.
 
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I do day trading (make more money than domaining)
Currently I am trading the following:
INTC
MU
TSM
NVDA
AMD
ARM
 
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