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Tag: code name

NVIDIA’s At It Again

Although I’m not attending NVIDIA’s GPU Technology conference this year (as I did last year), it was hard to avoid the big news NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced around NVIDIA’s product roadmap. And, much to the glee of my inner nerd, NVIDIA has continued its use of colorful codenames.

The newest addition to NVIDIA’s mobile lineup (their Tegra line of products) is Parker — named after the alter-ego of Marvel’s Spiderman. Parker joins a family which includes Kal-El (Superman) [the Tegra 2], Wayne (Batman) [the Tegra 3], Stark (Iron Man) [Tegra 4], and Logan (Wolverine) [Tegra 5].

And as for NVIDIA’s high-performance computing lineup (their Tesla line of products), they’ve added yet another famous scientist: Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery (and the reason our unit for electric potential difference is the “Volt”). Volta joins brilliant physicists Nikola Tesla, Enrico Fermi, Johannes Kepler, and James Maxwell.

(Images from Anandtech)

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The Marketing Glory of NVIDIA’s Codenames

This is an old tidbit, but nevertheless a good one that has (somehow) never made it to my blog. I’ve mentioned before the private equity consulting world’s penchant for silly project names, but while code names are not rare in the corporate world, more often than not, the names tend to be unimaginative. NVIDIA’s code names, however, are pure marketing glory.

Take NVIDIA’s high performance computing product roadmap (below) – these are products that use the graphics processing capabilities of NVIDIA’s high-end GPUs and turn them into smaller, cheaper, and more power-efficient supercomputing engines which scientists and researchers can use to crunch numbers (check out entries from the Bench Press blog for an idea of what researchers have been able to do with them). How does NVIDIA describe its future roadmap? It uses the names of famous scientists to describe its technology roadmap: Tesla (the great American electrical engineer who helped bring us AC power), Fermi (“the father of the Atomic Bomb”), Kepler (one of the first astronomers to apply physics to astronomy), and Maxwell (the physicist who helped show that electrical, magnetic, and optical phenomena were all linked).

cudagpuroadmap

Who wouldn’t want to do some “high power” research (pun intended) with Maxwell? 🙂

But, what really takes the cake for me are the codenames NVIDIA uses for its smartphone/tablet chips: its Tegra line of products. Instead of scientists, he uses, well, comic book characters (now you know why I love them, right?) :-). For release at the end of this year? Kal-El, or for the uninitiated, that’s the alien name for Superman. After that? Wayne, as in the alter ego for Batman. Then, Logan, as in the name for the X-men Wolverine. And then Stark, as in the alter ego for Iron Man.

Tegra_MWC_Update1

Everybody wants a little Iron Man in their tablet :-).

And, now I know what I’ll name my future secret projects!

(Image credit – CUDA GPU Roadmap) (Image credit – Tegra Roadmap)

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Project Bunnyrabbit

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Consulting, for better and for worse, involves a great deal of secrecy. On the one hand, it means my firm pays for each consultant to have a company laptop (Thinkpad T60) with encrypted hard drive and a 3M privacy filter. On the other hand, it makes it extremely difficult to talk about my work, or to request information.

My firm, for example, makes it a point to never mention client’s names. Even with our dealings with senior management (at the VP level), treating information on a “need to know” basis would be considered a very loose policy. This may seem odd, but makes sense seeing how we are oftentimes discussing potential acquisition targets and potentially sensitive issues (e.g. laying off a division). If such information were to leak, it could lead to a particularly tricky situation for management (e.g. if the division which was to be axed caught wind of this), or, worse, lead to an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The bar for confidentiality is set even higher for private equity clients. Because private equity firms basically make large bets on companies by either buying up entire firms or divisions (e.g. like how Cerberus bought all of Chrysler from Daimler-Chrysler, or how KKR bought up all of RJR Nabisco) financed by borrowing all the money, their success depends strongly on getting the best deal for an acquisition. This means that if even the slightest word got out that a certain company or strategy was under consideration, there is a big chance that the acquisition price will go up or a competitor will move to neutralize that strategic opportunity.

It’s no small wonder, then, that in private equity cases, and in situations dealing with potential acquisition targets, case teams at my firm follow the strictest of privacy guidelines. We even take it to the next level by assigning each acquisition target a code name, making it a practice to never use the actual target name, not in slides, not in written correspondence, and not even in face-to-face discussions.

This may seem absurd, but it’s happened on more than one occasion, that two separate case teams at a firm will be working with two different private equity groups, but both be considering the exact same target. Going this extra mile insures that confidentiality is protected, and conveys to the clients that we as a firm take their priorities very seriously.

On a lighter note, though, case teams occasionally use more “colorful names” — “Project Bunnyrabbit” comes to mind as one example from my firm — leading to very bizarre conversations, which, when overheard, sound absolutely ridiculous:

CONSULTANT 1: Yeah, Bunnyrabbit looks really good.

CONSULTANT 2: I agree. Especially this past year, it did really well compared to its peers.

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