28
Nov

Rags to Riches: Alibaba Founder Jack Ma

Fresh off the biggest IPO in history, Alibaba founder and  chairman Jack Ma is now the richest person in China.

Ma is now worth an estimated $25 billion, which includes his 7.8% stake in  Alibaba and a nearly 50% stake in payment processing service Alipay.

Ma is a true rags-to-riches story. He grew up poor in communist China, failed  his college entrance exam twice, and was rejected from dozens of jobs, including  one at KFC, before finding success with his third internet company,  Alibaba.

Jack Ma (a.k.a. Ma Yun) was born on October 15, 1964, in  Hangzhou, located in the southeastern part of China. He has an older brother and  a younger sister. He and his siblings grew up at a time when communist China was  increasingly isolated from the West, and his family didn’t have much money when  they were young.

Ma was scrawny and often got into fights with  classmates. “I was never afraid of opponents who were bigger than I,” he recalls  in “Alibaba,” a book by Liu Shiying and Martha Avery. Still, Ma had hobbies just  like any other kid. He liked collecting crickets and making them fight, and was  able to distinguish the size and type of cricket just by the sound it made.

After then-US president Richard Nixon visited Hangzhou  in 1972, Ma’s hometown became a tourist mecca. As a teenager, Ma started waking  up early to visit the city’s main hotel, offering visitors tours of the city in  exchange for English lessons. The nickname “Jack” was given to him by a tourist  he befriended.

Without money or connections, the only way Ma could get  ahead was through education. After high school, he applied to go to college —  but failed the entrance exam twice. After a great deal of studying, he finally  passed on the third try, going on to attend Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute. He  graduated in 1988 and started applying to as many jobs as he could.

He received more than a dozen rejections — including  from KFC — before being hired as an English teacher. Ma was a natural with his  students and loved his job — though he made only $12 a month at a local  university.

Source: Business Insider, Crocodile in the  Yangtze

Ma had no experience with computers or coding, but he  was captivated by the internet when he used it for the first time during a trip  to the US in 1995. He had recently started a translation business and made the  trip to help a Chinese firm recover a payment. Ma’s first online search was  “beer,” but he was surprised to find that no Chinese beers turned up in the  results. It was then that he decided to found an internet company for China.

Though his first two ventures failed, four years later  he gathered 17 of his friends in his apartment and convinced them to invest in  him and his vision for an online marketplace he called “Alibaba.” The site  allowed exporters to post product listings that customers could buy directly.

Soon, the service started to attract members from all  over the world. By October 1999, the company had raised $5 million from Goldman  Sachs and $20 million from SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company that also  invests in technology companies. The team remained close-knit and scrappy — “We  will make it because we are young and we never, never give up,” Ma said to a  gathering of employees.

Source: Business Insider, Crocodile in the Yangtze

 

He has always maintained a sense of fun at Alibaba. When  the company first became profitable, Ma gave each employee a can of Silly String  to go wild with. In the early 2000s, when the company decided to start Taobao,  its eBay competitor, he had the team working on it do handstands during breaks  to keep their energy levels up.

In 2005, Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba in  exchange for about a 40% stake in the company. This was huge for Alibaba — at  the time it was trying to beat eBay in China — and it would eventually be an  enormous win for Yahoo too, netting it  ~$10 billion in Alibaba’s IPO  alone.

In 2005, Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba in exchange for about a 40% stake in the company. This was huge for Alibaba — at the time it was trying to beat eBay in China — and it would eventually be an enormous win for Yahoo too, netting it  ~$10 billion in Alibaba's IPO alone.

HYSTA

Ma stepped down from his post as CEO in 2013, staying on  as executive chairman. Alibaba went public on Sept. 19. “Today what we got is  not money. What we got is the trust from the people,” Ma told CNBC. The  company’s $150-billion IPO was the largest offering for a US-listed company in  the history of the New York Stock Exchange. It also made Ma the richest man in  China, with an estimated worth of $25 billion.

Ma stepped down from his post as CEO in 2013, staying on as executive chairman. Alibaba went public on Sept. 19. "Today what we got is not money. What we got is the trust from the people," Ma told CNBC. The company's $150-billion IPO was the largest offering for a US-listed company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. It also made Ma the richest man in China, with an estimated worth of $25 billion.

REUTERS/Brendan  McDermid

Source: REUTERS, CNBC, AFP

 

Alibaba employees threw a big party at the company’s  Hangzhou headquarters to celebrate. One employee even took the party as the  perfect opportunity to propose. Ma told employees at a press conference that he  hopes they use their newfound wealth to become “a batch of genuinely noble  people, a batch of people who are able to help others, and who are kind and  happy.”

Alibaba employees threw a big party at the company's Hangzhou headquarters to celebrate. One employee even took the party as the perfect opportunity to propose. Ma told employees at a press conference that he hopes they use their newfound wealth to become "a batch of genuinely noble people, a batch of people who are able to help others, and who are kind and happy."

QQ.com by Tencent

Source: QQ.com, USA Today

 

The IPO may have made Ma an extremely wealthy man, but  he hasn’t made any flashy purchases (yet), and he still has some pretty modest  hobbies. “I don’t think he has changed much, he is still that old style,”   Xiao-Ping Chen, a friend of Ma, told USA Today. He likes reading and writing  kung fu fiction, playing poker, meditating, and practicing tai chi. He has even  teamed up with Jet Li to spread awareness of tai chi, and he brings a trainer  along with him when he travels.

The IPO may have made Ma an extremely wealthy man, but he hasn't made any flashy purchases (yet), and he still has some pretty modest hobbies. "I don't think he has changed much, he is still that old style,"  Xiao-Ping Chen, a friend of Ma, told USA Today. He likes reading and writing kung fu fiction, playing poker, meditating, and practicing tai chi. He has even teamed up with Jet Li to spread awareness of tai chi, and he brings a trainer along with him when he travels.

Associated  Press

Source: USA Today

Ma developed an interest in environmentalism when a  member of his wife’s family became sick with an illness that Ma suspected was  caused by pollution. He sits on the global board of The Nature Conservancy, and  spoke during a session of the Clinton Global Initiative this September. He’s  also been instrumental in funding a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.

Ma developed an interest in environmentalism when a member of his wife's family became sick with an illness that Ma suspected was caused by pollution. He sits on the global board of The Nature Conservancy, and spoke during a session of the Clinton Global Initiative this September. He's also been instrumental in funding a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.

Shannon Stapleton /  REUTERS

Source: Fortune

Ma has largely kept his family life out of the  spotlight. He married Zhang Ying, a teacher whom he met at school, after they  graduated in the late ’80s. “[He] is not a handsome man, but I fell for him  because he can do a lot of things handsome men cannot do,” Zhang has said. They  have two children — a daughter and a son who is an undergrad at UC Berkeley. Ma  has also audited history classes at his son’s college.

He does have a few splurges, however. In March 2013,  Alibaba spent a reported $49.7 million for a Gulfstream G550, mostly for Ma’s  use.

Ma is something of a celebrity in China, and crowds of  people show up to listen to him speak.

Source: 60 Minutes

The company also hosts annual talent shows, and Ma is a  natural entertainer. At a company anniversary event, he dressed up as a punk  rocker for a performance in front of 20,000 Alibaba employees.

The company also hosts annual talent shows, and Ma is a natural entertainer. At a company anniversary event, he dressed up as a punk rocker for a performance in front of 20,000 Alibaba employees.

Steven Shi /  REUTERS

Source: 60 Minutes

Company lore has it that Ma came up with the name  “Alibaba” while sitting in a San Francisco coffee shop. In “Ali Baba and the  Forty Thieves,” a secret password unlocks a trove filled with unbelievable  riches. Ma’s company has, in a way, revealed the potential of small and  mid-sized businesses across the globe.

Company lore has it that Ma came up with the name "Alibaba" while sitting in a San Francisco coffee shop. In "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," a secret password unlocks a trove filled with unbelievable riches. Ma's company has, in a way, revealed the potential of small and mid-sized businesses across the globe.

AP  Images

Source: Entrepreneur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[via Business Insider]

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