How AMD CEO Lisa Su Became a Billionaire in the AI ​​Age

AMD CEO Lisa Su.
Steve Marks/Reuters
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  • AMD CEO Lisa Su has officially joined the Forbes billionaires list.
  • He is worth an estimated $1.3 billion and is in charge of a company that is key to the creative AI boom.
  • AMD, like its rival Nvidia run by its cousin, provides the chips needed to power AI apps like ChatGPT.

The generative AI boom has created its new billionaire: Lisa Su.

The 54-year-old from Taiwan’s ancient capital, Tainan, may not be a household name like many of her Silicon Valley peers.

But after nearly a decade-long stint at the helm of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Su’s quiet rise to the top bracket of America’s tech industry is starting to get some long overdue attention.

The CEO of the Santa Clara tech giant, which provides GPU chips to companies seeking computing power for AI applications, is one of the newest entrants to Forbes’ annual billionaire list, published this week. Became.

This is a huge milestone for Su, whose net worth is now estimated at $1.3 billion. He took over AMD in 2014, when it was rumored to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Now, he’s poised to take the company to new heights to take on his billionaire cousin, Nvidia chief Jensen Huang, who is worth about $77 billion.

Here’s how Su got to this point, and what might be next for her in the AI ​​age.

Lisa Sue’s Billionaire Journey

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang and AMD CEO Lisa Su.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images, Jarrod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

Sue, whose family moved to the U.S. when she was three, seemed set on the path her career took her on.

After majoring in electrical engineering at MIT and pursuing his Masters and Ph.D. At university, Su ventured into the world of semiconductors and chips, holding roles in blue-chip businesses such as Texas Instruments and IBM, before joining AMD in 2012.

His role as senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s global business units would eventually prepare him for the CEO position two years later – but success was not guaranteed.

His predecessor, Rory Reed, left behind a company with billions of dollars in debt, struggled to acquire expensive processors in which it had invested heavily and was overshadowed by rivals such as Intel. was

But after taking a compensation package that spurred efforts to boost stock performance — he took home a lower base salary than Reed’s of $850,000 but was awarded more than six million shares — Su began revitalizing AMD. According to Forbes, the stock has risen more than 60-fold since Su became CEO in 2014.

Focusing on a radically different design of CPUs known as Zen, first released in 2017, Su has restored industry confidence in the company’s ability to provide key components of computers with greater power and energy efficiency. What did For example, newer versions of these CPUs are used in game consoles such as the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, from Microsoft to Sony.

Low estimate

Despite resurrecting AMD from a market cap of nearly $2 billion when he took over, Su wasn’t always given his due.

In an infamous incident on the grid at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2018, former Formula One driver Martin Brundle inadvertently shoved Su after asking her if she spoke English. The answer to that? It was there as a sponsor of F1’s most successful team, Ferrari.

Underestimating Su is still a reality in the generative AI boom.

As his company has sought to expand its GPU division — now in hot demand thanks to the likes of OpenAI and Meta — it has been largely overshadowed by rival Nvidia.

Nvidia CEO Huang, a first cousin once removed from Su, has valued his company at more than $2.2 trillion by convincing the AI ​​industry that its GPUs and their peripherals The community has an edge over competitors. In contrast, AMD is valued at $278 billion.

But Su is clearly up for a challenge. In December, it touted AMD’s new MI300X chip as a rival to Nvidia’s top offering, calling it “the most advanced AI accelerator in the industry.”

The likes of Sam Altman’s OpenAI plan to use the chips, which AMD expects to reach $1 billion in sales by mid-2024. The company also predicts massive AI industry growth in the coming years as it targets $400 billion by 2027.

For Su, then, that means there’s a lot to play for as AI companies show little sign of interest in disappearing computing power. Su’s journey to becoming a billionaire is just beginning.

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