Jensen Huang‘s name is tied indelibly to Nvidia, but he’s not the company’s sole founder: Curtis Priem was Nvidia’s first CTO and one of the three co-founders of the iconic PC graphics company — and he’d be worth around $70 billion today if he’d held onto his Nvidia shares. He is reportedly eccentric, living “off the grid with unreliable cell service,” while writing ambitious and intricate world problem-solving manifestos.
Priem was profiled in Forbes this weekend, and fortunately, the ex-CFO is still comfortably wealthy. He also seems happy to devote much of his time to projects that benefit others, particularly students at his alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York
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While Priem’s name might be forever tied to his co-founding of Nvidia, his career in computer graphics was successful and well-established long before the green team first got together. The Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate is credited with designing the “first graphics processor for the PC,” the IBM Professional Graphics Adapter. He then spent several years working at Sun Microsystems and was responsible for developing the GX graphics chip there.
About eleven years after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and having had great success at IBM and Sun, Priem co-founded Nvidia with Jensen Huang and Chris Malachowsky – meeting up at the infamous Denny’s Diner. He was the founding CTO of the company. Priem ended up staying on as Nvidia CTO for ten years but sold off his shares relatively early; the first sizable sum was banked shortly after Nvidia’s IPO in 1999, and the rest were disposed of in their entirety by 2006.
According to the financial number crunchers at Forbes, if Priem still held all of his Nvidia shares today, he would be worth a cool $70 billion. The magazine estimates his current net worth to be $30 million. However, it is thought that he has been incredibly supportive of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, publically gifting the educational establishment $275 million, and is rumored to be responsible for an anonymous donation of $360 million.
Of course, with $30 million, Priem isn’t short of cash. The source publication paints him as eccentric, living “off the grid with unreliable cell service,” while writing ambitious and intricate world problem-solving manifestos. He definitely isn’t a hobo, though, as his off-grid residence is a $6 million retreat in Fremont, California, and he has a Gulfstream G450 private jet named Snoopy, which he flies to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute four times a year.
In recent months, you won’t be surprised to learn that Priem is continuing to work for the benefit of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and its students. One of the recent highlights of his supporting works and investments is the initiative to bring an IBM Quantum System One computer to campus in 2024. Apparently, this will make RPI the first university in the world with such a computer on-site, but it required a $95 million pledge to acquire the system and set up a center to host it. Part of the sizable expense is due to IBM’s 2,000-pound quantum computer having an operating temperature of around -460 degrees Fahrenheit.