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Early Retail Investors Chart Nvidia's Transformation From Gaming Icon to AI Superpower — a Ride That's Paid for Cars, Dream Homes, and Lavish Vacations The stock's steep climb — up over 1,500% since 2019 — has transformed the lives of some of Nvidia's investors.

Key Takeaways

  • Nvidia has been a cash cow for investors lucky enough to have bought in before the AI-fueled rally.
  • Shares of the company have gained 1,500% since 2019 as its GPUs power the AI revolution.
  • Early retail investors told Business Insider their gains had paid for cars, vacations, and dream homes.
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Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New York Times; Chelsea Jia Feng/BI

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

The dizzying rise of Nvidia stock in recent years has produced extraordinary gains for many retail investors, especially those who got in before the chipmaker became an artificial intelligence superpower.

The stock's steep climb — up over 1,500% since 2019 — has transformed the lives of some of Nvidia's long-term retail investors, resulting in comfier retirements, new cars, and gains worth millions for some.

Tom, a 48-year-old retail investor in New Jersey, first bought Nvidia in 2011, when the stock was valued at just about $5 a share. He put in $12,000 at the time and then another $50,000 in 2022. His total stake is now worth $3 million, according to brokerage statements he shared with Business Insider.

His fortune, which remains mostly invested and untouched, was a matter of research and good timing, he said.

"They were the original creators of the GPUs," he said. "I'm not even much of a techie. I'm not a computer person at all, but I knew that the GPUs would be worth something one day."

Nvidia went from a gaming icon to an AI superpower seemingly overnight. In the early days of the pandemic, its stock climbed as gamers, with time on their hands under COVID-19 lockdowns, scrambled to upgrade their computer rigs with the latest Nvidia GPUs.

Then, in November 2022, the debut of OpenAI's ChatGPT fueled a run of stunning growth for Nvidia as its GPUs were the only game in town when it came to powering such AI programs. The stock has essentially gone parabolic since.

According to Vanda Research, Nvidia has become the top stock among retail investors, surpassing retail portfolio concentrations of Apple, Tesla, and SPY, the most popular S&P 500 exchange-traded fund.

Daily net inflows into Nvidia stock driven by retail investors

7-trading-day moving average

Tom said his Nvidia stake was worth about three times what he had in his 401(k) and that he felt more comfortable that he'd be able to live well in retirement, a concern that loomed over him before he went in on Nvidia.

Generational wealth

Kiana Danial is the 40-year-old founder of Invest Diva, a company that helps women take control of their financial future and create generational wealth.

Danial hadn't heard of Nvidia before 2015 when she married her husband, who was a gamer in his free time. Danial said she liked to invest in products she uses, but when she heard her husband talk about how much he loved Nvidia, she decided to buy the stock.

She first bought Nvidia in June 2016. She purchased 10 shares and shortly after continued setting new buy orders every month.

"The investments started growing pretty rapidly," Danial said.

Nvidia shares tumbled by more than 30% in 2018. During that time, Danial continued adding to her positions and started adding Nvidia to her Roth IRA and a Roth IRA she set up for her daughter.

Danial sold the bulk of her shares in February and March 2023 to help partially cover a large down payment on a second home.

Pool at Kiana Danial's house

The pool in Kiana Danial's home. Her Nvidia investments helped fund a down payment. Jeff Roberts Photography via BI

Danial sold 800 shares over a six-week period for about $188,795, bringing her total number of shares down to 323.

"I'm obviously kicking myself," Danial said about selling the stock. "But we bought our dream house and it's beautiful."

The stock she still owns has left her with $202,940 in gains. She doesn't plan on selling her shares anytime soon and intends to buy more.

Danial's daughter recently turned 6, and the account Danial set up for her has grown 568% and is worth around $11,000.

The investors Business Insider spoke with piled into Nvidia early on because of its renown among PC gamers, but today, the company's chips are the lynchpin of the AI revolution — and there is virtually zero competition.

The company's dominance has made it hard to find anyone willing to give the bear case, though some analysts have recently sounded more hesitant about further gains after the stock's meteoric rally.

New financial security

Rick, a 36-year-old retail investor in Texas, started buying Nvidia in 2009. The stock caught his eye because, at the time, the company seemed like the future of gaming. He invested $600, which he described as a wild-card bet.

"And so $600 turned into $140K," Rick said.

With Nvidia, Rick said he felt he had a safety net to fall back on. He's spent only a small portion of his gains so far: $15,000 to flip a car he worked on, a hobby he said he wouldn't have gotten into without the Nvidia money. For his 10th anniversary, he and his wife packed their bags for a $14,000 getaway in Costa Rica.

"I had zero stress about it. It was like, 'We can spend as much as we want on this trip,'" he said.

That sense of security that such a windfall provides was the top theme among the Nvidia investors BI connected with.

It's a similar story for Chris Downs, a 66-year-old who lives in rural Missouri and retired from his job as a math teacher three years ago.

He's been investing for a while, but his interest in Nvidia began when he bought a new computer for video editing at the start of the COVID-19 quarantines. Downs said he splurged on an Nvidia graphics card for his setup and was impressed.

He bought 112 shares in March 2020 for $79 each.

In July 2023, he sold 28 shares of Nvidia at $436 apiece to offset losses from other investments. Now he has 84 shares left, worth over $65,000 based on Monday's prices, in addition to other stocks.

He said he would probably sell some of his Nvidia shares closer to the election, but he's planning to invest the proceeds for his four children, as his parents and grandparents had done for their kids.

Downs said his lifestyle wasn't lavish but that he tried to travel every month. Places he's been to include Bolivia, Paris, and Mexico City, and he plans to go to Spain at the end of April.

He said security was the biggest perk of his investment, as well as knowing that he could cover unpredictable financial mishaps.

"It's nice in retirement not to have to worry," Downs said.

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